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Maryland legislature considers raising minimum age for marriage

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WBFF) — The Maryland General Assembly is considering a bill which would increase the minimum age for marriage from 15 to 18.

Under current law, teens between 15-17 can get married with consent from their parents or if the girl is pregnant.

But Delegate Venessa Atterbeary, a Democrat who represents Howard County, says there are many problems with young teens who get married.

Delegate Atterbeary says, “When you marry young as a child, you drop out of school, so you don’t reach your full potential educationally, it puts you into poverty, you don’t earn as much.”

Atterbeary, who is the lead sponsor of the bill, adds “These are child marriages, whether 15, 16 or 17, legally you’re not an adult. We deem that you haven’t reached the age of maturity until your 20’s and so you shouldn’t be getting married.”

According to Atterbeary, research has shown that there is serious issue whether there is parental consent (with underage marriages) or parental coercion “and so that’s an issue and it’s tied to human trafficking.”

Robert Duckworth, Clerk of the Court for Anne Arundel County, has presided over more than 8,000 marriages in his career.

Duckworth says less than two percent of marriages performed at the county courthouse involve bride and grooms under age 18.