Testimony on Raised Bill 6569: An Act Concerning The Minimum Age To Be Eligible To Marry

Judiciary Committee
February 27, 2023
Submitted By: Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter representing over 2,300 members we offer this testimony in support of raised bill 6569.

Current marriage law in Connecticut allows minors age 16 or 17 to marry with the consent of one parent and judicial approval, plus 16- and 17-year-olds who are emancipated youth may marry. This bill closes this loophole in the law by requiring that the minimum age to marry be 18 years of age.

Ending child marriage is a national movement. There are 7 states that have passed legislation to end all marriage before 18 with no exceptions. Crucially, this includes each one of Connecticut’s neighboring states, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island. Additionally, nearby states New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware have ended child marriage as has Minnesota. In Vermont and Maine there has been legislation introduced to end child marriage. We do not want to be the last state in New England to allow child marriage.

Connecticut does not have a residency requirement for marriage and if it continues to allow parents and judges to enter minors into marriage, it will quickly become the destination state for child marriage in the Northeast. By setting no exception legislation, and only allowing those who are 18 years or older to marry Connecticut will end “state shopping” that targets our state.

Ending child marriage is also a global movement. 193 countries, including the USA agreed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 5 is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” Under that, target 5.3 is to “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage” by year 2030. We do not have to wait until 2030, we can end child marriage in our state effective July 1, 2023.

Child rape is punishable by law, but not if the rapist’s victim is their spouse. Child marriage is a means of child trafficking under the guise of marriage, that this bill will put an end too in our state. A child trapped in a marriage without individual rights will come to an end too.

As social workers we see the harm that child marriage can cause. Such marriages are often detrimental to the child’s mental health and can have life-long negative effects. As a state we have responsibilities to protect children from known harms and child marriage is such a harm. We urge all the members of the Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of raised bill 6569.

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