Delaware Passes New Law Prohibiting Underage Marriage
Thursday, June 14, 2007 4:44 PM

On May 23, Delaware enacted a new state law forbidding minors under age eighteen to marry unless a judge rules that the marriage is in the youth’s best interest. The law was passed to invalidate a marriage exception law, which had allowed minors who were pregnant to wed. Supporters of the new law contend that pregnancy exceptions conflict with statutory rape laws, which stipulate that sex with a minor under the age of consent is a crime. 

Experts contend that the source of the conflict between the two laws lies in the historical context of statutory rape. Statutory rape laws were originally meant to force a man to take responsibility for his actions. While pregnancy exceptions correspond with this original intent, statutory rape laws are now meant to protect youth from predators. Four other states retain statutory rape laws and underage marriage provisions that are at conflict – Maryland, Florida, Oklahoma, and Kentucky.

Compiled from: “Age of Consent Muddles Laws on Marriage v. Rape,” Women’s eNews, 7 June 2007.

For more information on early marriage, click here.