General Assembly passes Rep. Casimiro and Sen. Burke’s legislation that bans child marriages in Rhode Island
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly tonight passed Rep. Julie A. Casimiro and Sen. John P. Burke’s legislation (2021-H 5387A / 2021-S 0398aa) which bans child marriages in Rhode Island.
The legislation eliminates all language in state law that allowed persons under the age of 18 to obtain a marriage license with parental consent. Going forward, the bill will only allow persons of full legal age, at least 18 years of age, to obtain a marriage license.
“Child marriages destroy girls’ health, education and economic opportunities and increases their risk of violence. These young girls risk a 70 to 80 percent chance of divorce and they are more likely to end up in poverty than teen moms who remain single. These marriages can be used to cover up an unwanted pregnancy or cover for abuse. Sometimes abusive parents use these marriages for financial gain. Sometimes these marriages are used for sex trafficking purposes. The United Nations has made this a child welfare priority and with this bill’s passage, Rhode Island becomes the fifth state in the country to do so, making us a leader in our work protecting children,” said Representative Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter).
“While child marriage is rare in Rhode Island, it does happen,” said Senator Burke (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick). “Between 2013 and 2019, 32 minors — one as young as 14 — were married in Rhode Island, the vast majority of them being girls. And most often, child marriage is forced marriage, with minors being compelled to marry by their parents. It’s time for the state to put an end to this outrageous practice.”
“I join advocates and survivors across Rhode Island and beyond in applauding the legislature for moving quickly to pass this legislation, which harms no one, costs nothing and ends a human rights abuse,” said Fraidy Reiss, Founder and Executive Director of Unchained At Last.
The legislation has garnered the support of Kids Count RI, The Office of the Child Advocate and UNICEF, which has long lobbied against child marriages across the planet.
Minors who are married lack the same legal protections that married adults have. For instance, those who are victims of domestic violence have little recourse, since battered women’s shelters will not accept minors without parental consent. They also cannot petition for divorce.
The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.
For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903