East Idaho lawmakers take new approach to reducing child marriage after 2019 bill failed
Idaho has the highest rate of child marriage in the U.S., according to a national report.
A bill last year that sought to end child marriage failed on the House floor.
Now two Republicans who voted against that bill have brought their own bill to reduce child marriage in Idaho, the Idaho Statesman reports.
“The purpose of this bill is to prevent forced or coerced marriage and the trafficking of children and to limit marriage to those with the ability to protect themselves from abuse,” states the bill introduced Friday by Idaho Falls Reps. Barbara Ehardt and Bryan Zollinger.
This bill sets the minimum age to marry in Idaho at 16 and restricts the age difference if one party is under age 18 to no more than three years.
Under current Idaho law, 16- and 17-year-olds don’t need court permission to marry, only a parent’s permission. A child under age 16 can marry if a judge consents also.
Zollinger and Ehardt said their only issue with last year’s bill was that it added a requirement for court approval for 16- and 17-year-olds to marry, which is not required under current law. The House voted down last year’s bill 39-28.
“That is essentially the change in this bill. It is a parent’s and family’s decision, not a court decision,” Zollinger told reporters.
Under this new bill, there is no court approval required for 16- and 17-year-olds to marry and there are no circumstances in which a child under the age of 16 can marry and there are no circumstances under which a 16- or 17-year-old can marry someone more than three years older.
Marriage involving children under the age of 16 rarely occurs in Idaho. According to the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, there were 103 marriages with one person under age 16 between 1999 and 2017. The female was under age 16 in all of those marriages but one.
In Ada County in 2018, there were 12 marriages in which one party was age 16 or 17 and none under age 16.
The House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee on Friday, in an omnibus vote, agreed to print the child marriage bill along with more than a dozen other bills, including one prohibiting gender-reassignment surgery or prescribing medication to change or affirm the sex identity to anyone under age 18. Another bill would prohibit registered sex offenders from entering a daycare facility, loitering or residing within 500 feet of a daycare or owning or leasing a daycare.
Committee hearing dates have not yet been set for the child marriage bill or other bills printed Friday.