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NH – Emancipation Loophole

Action Alert – Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Sharon Carson, intends to have the Judiciary Committee vote on an amendment allowing emancipated minors to marry. Please call Senator Carson’s aide, Matthew Schelzi at 603-271-3266 and tell him you support SB359 to end child marriage, but you oppose an emancipation loophole. Likely he won’t answer the phone, so please leave a voice mail message.

Emancipation is a Loophole

The following explanation describing how emancipation does not protect minors was shared by our partner, Unchained at Last.

  • Emancipation is intended to help minors who cannot be reunited with their family by giving them some limited rights of adulthood so they can navigate the world independently until they turn 18 and attain full rights of adulthood. However, emancipated minors are not allowed to engage in activities that are unsafe or inappropriate for their age and are not necessary for their independence, such as buying tobacco, alcohol or firearms or voting (N.H. R.S.A. § 461-B(8)(V)(a)). Given the many serious harms of marriage before 18, which is considered a human rights abuse because of the devastating repercussions it produces, and given that marriage is not necessary for a minor to navigate the world on their own, emancipated minors also should not be allowed to marry.
  • An emancipation loophole to the marriage age opens up the terrible possibility that minors will be forced to emancipate so that they can be forced to marry. Advocates have told Unchained they already see something similar happening in the United Kingdom, with parents setting up children with a fake job at the family business and a bank account the children cannot actually access, so the courts believe the children have an income and assets.
  • Emancipated minors have only some rights of adulthood and still can become trapped in an unwanted marriage. For example, domestic violence shelters typically do not accept anyone under age 18, usually because of funding guidelines or concerns about liability. In Unchained’s experience, domestic violence shelters are reluctant to accept even emancipated minors. Further, emancipated minors often have a hard time accessing even the rights they do have. Imagine, for example, how a landlord would feel about renting an apartment to a 17-year-old, even one who is emancipated.
  • To illustrate how emancipated teens often have a difficult time accessing their rights, take New Jersey Asm. Raj Mukherji. He was emancipated when he was a teenager and a “wunderkind” entrepreneur. He told Unchained even though he was legally allowed to enter contracts (and even though he was clearly brilliant and mature), he often had an adult business partner do so on his behalf because business associates were too skeptical and confused about entering contracts with a teenage boy. (Mukherji signed on as a co-sponsor to the bill that ended child marriage in New Jersey in 2018.)
  • An emancipation loophole removes one of the only options Unchained and other advocates have to help minors whose family is taking them overseas for a forced marriage. Unchained and other advocates usually help such minors to emancipate, but advocates cannot do that if emancipation means the parents can marry off the minor without taking them overseas.
  • Indeed, just months after Texas passed a bill in 2017 that allowed child marriage only for emancipated teens, that loophole trapped a 16-year-old Unchained client in a nightmarish scenario. Her parents were planning to take her overseas to force her to marry, and the courts refused to intervene to stop the trip. Unchained would have helped the girl to seek emancipation so she could refuse to travel with her parents, but, with the new law in place, Unchained could not seek emancipation for the girl out of fear her parents would immediately pounce on her emancipated status and coerce her to marry in Texas. If the new law in Texas were a “brightline” law preventing all marriage before 18, without an emancipation exception, the girl could have sought emancipation. She would have then had two years to finish high school, find a college and plan her next steps without concern that her parents would pressure or trick her into marriage.
  • Marriage before 18 is a human rights abuse that destroys American girls’ health, education and economic opportunities and significantly increases their risk of experiencing violence. The devastating impacts of this human rights abuse do not disappear if we stamp “emancipated” on a girl’s forehead.
  • The whole world, including the U.S., has promised to end child marriage by year 2030, under United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5.3, to help achieve gender equality. If other countries attempted to get around this worthy goal by emancipating girls before marriage and then insisting it is no longer “child marriage,” we would cry foul. So let’s not allow it in the U.S.

Related Links

Sign-on to Tell NH Lawmakers – End Child Marriage!

The New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on SB359, a bill to end child marriage in the state. All New Hampshire residents are invited to sign onto JPus’ letter in support of the bill.

NH residents can also testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee: In-person on Thursday, February 1, 2024 at 9:15, Room 100 of the State House. If you will be testifying, please let JPus know so we can coordinate efforts.

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Fees – Survey Results

What do you charge to perform a marriage ceremony? 

That was the question posed by the Justice of the Peace Association in its anonymous survey of marriage officiants.

Most respondents have been officiating for more than eight years, and 82% are members of JPus. All of the almost 100 people who completed the survey live in New England.
The Justice of the Peace Association encourages a range of fees, depending on the circumstances of the ceremony. One third of respondents charge $100 for their low-end. On the other hand, three people indicated that $500 is their lowest rate.  Eleven percent of respondents said sometimes they do not charge anything at all. We hope that this is the friends and family rate, or that these individuals are not members of JPus. This is because the JPus Code of Ethics requires that members charge a fee that reflects their time and expertise.

Low Range

High Range

The high end of fees runs the gamut*. Most officiants charge between $250-$500, with 15% charging more than $750. The least experienced officiants were the seven people who said they have been doing weddings for one to three years, but they were not the only ones who undervalued their services.
* In Massachusetts, state law dictates the fees a JP may charge to perform a marriage ceremony: $100 in town and $150 out of town. But, JPs may bill couples for additional services (custom vows, consultation, etc.) Twelve people from Massachusetts responded to the survey.

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CT JP Appointments ~ Strategy Session


On October 10, 2023, Connecticut Secretary of State Stephanie Thomas met with JPus managing member Loretta Jay, State Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey (Fairfield, Bridgeport) and SOTS chief of staff, Gabe Rosenberg to develop a strategy to professionalize the role of JPs in the state.

Discussions focused on the importance of training, protecting vulnerable citizens and fairness of the appointment process. Potential partners were identified and marching orders established. Onward!

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CT Ends Child Marriage!

Ninth State in the US

It is fitting that after championing an end to child marriage in Connecticut, Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz was the one who signed the bill that protects children from marriage before they have legal protections. The Justice of the Peace Association is thrilled that its managing member, Loretta Jay, was invited to partake in the momentous occasion. This is an important recognition that our membership’s voice was heard, standing together, professional marriage officiants.

JPus’ Loretta Jay with Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz and State Representative Sarah Keitt
The Commemorative Bill!
Loretta Jay with State Representative Dominique Johnson


Waiting to enter the Lt. Governor’s office, Senator Herron Gaston, Representative Jillian Gilchrest, Child Marriage survivor Jennifer Bradbury and Unchained at Last Executive Director Fraidy Reiss.

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