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Announcement Topic: Legislation & Advocacy

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.

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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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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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JP Appointments Bill in Jeopardy

Vote YES on SB1140 Inclusive of Section 3 Working Group

Please take a few minutes to email your Senator and Representative and ask them to vote YES on SB1140 inclusive of Section 3, creating a JP Working Group

  1. Look up your State Representative and Senator
  2. Call or send your State Representative and Senator an email asking them to support SB1140 – Inclusive of Section 3.
See talking points and sample e-mail language below. The details are important.

Current Situation

On May 16, 2023,  a new amendment was submitted in the Senate that guts the part of the bill establishing a working group (Section 3) evaluating the JP appointment process and training qualifications. This is driven by some in the Senate who don’t want any changes to the ways JPs are appointed. They like the power and leverage available to DTC and RTC Chairs. Even though it is an unfair system.
All of our hard work during the past year is on the line. We need every JP and Town Clerk (and their friends and family) who care about this to contact their State Senator and Representative and ask them to reject this amendment and instead vote for Substitute Senate Bill 1140 inclusive of Section 3

Talking Points and Background on SB1140,
An Act Concerning the Appointment of Justices of the Peace

Section 3 is reflected in Substitute Senate Bill 1140, starting on line 98:

  • (a) There is established a working group to examine and make recommendations on (a) the methods of determining how many justices of the peace positions there are in each town and statewide; (b) the portability of justice of the peace appointments across town lines; (c) the process by which justices of the peace are selected; (d) potential training, minimum qualifications, application process, and background check requirements; (e) oversight; (f) legal ramifications of misrepresenting status as a justice of the peace; (g) issues related to reporting trafficking, forced marriage, and marriage fraud; and (h) any other relevant issues.
  • Membership of the working group is bipartisan, and inclusive of JPs, Town Clerks, DTC and RTC chairs, minor political parties, the SOTS/designee and JPus/designee.
The Planning and Development Committee voted unanimously to support SB1140, inclusive of Section 3. Here is the Joint Favorable report.

Key findings of JPus’ research

  • Systemic unfairness in appointment process: Favoritism, inequality between political parties, lack of portability between towns.
  • Disparity between municipalities: Three different rules are used to determine how many JP slot are available in each city or town.
  • No training requirement: This creates opportunity for nonfeasance, jeopardizing the legality of marriages and quality of services to the public. Trained JPs are partners to recognize forced marriage and human trafficking and marriage fraud. Thus, they are another team member to protect our most vulnerable.

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Remember – as marriage officiants and town clerks, your voice and perspective matters.

CT JP Appointments ~ Q&A

We’ve heard the complaints from JPs and Town Clerks about Connecticut’s JP appointment process and the lack of JP qualifications. As a result, last year the Justice of the Peace Association took action and performed extensive research. And then, last month we released our white paper with our findings.
On Thursday, March 30, 2023 at 6PM, join me for a Zoom presentation and Q&A. We’ll talk about what we learned, what was done and what is next. This is an interactive session for JPs and Town Clerks.

Q&A, March 30th at 6:00 PM

The March 30, 2023 Q&A event has already taken place.

As a result of JPus’ efforts there has been lots of activity! Meetings with the Secretary of State and State legislators, testimony before a legislative committee and more. Read more.

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Child Marriage Press Conference in CT

JPus was honored when Connecticut Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz invited its managing member to speak at her press conference imploring the end of child marriage in Connecticut. On March 13, 2023, Loretta Jay joined child marriage survivors, other advocates, State Legislators, the DCF Commissioner and the Lt. Governor to urge the passage of HB6569.

Watch Press Conference


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VT Action Alert – Child Marriage

End Child Marriage

Ask the YOUR REPRESENTATIVE to Vote YES on H 148

Please take a few minutes to email or call your Representative and ask them to vote YES on H 148 Raising the Age of Marriage to 18.
The House Committee on Judiciary is meeting on Thursday, February 16, 2023.
There is no need for 16 & 17 year old children to marry – this isn’t about maturity, it is about legal rights. A child cannot retain an attorney, access domestic violence shelters, or sign a lease on a rental.
New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey have already passed legislation making the age of marriage 18, with no exceptions. New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut have bills to do the same.
We do not want Vermont to become the destination marriage state in the Northeast for child traffickers to increase their control over their victims.

Your steps

  1. Call or e-mail YOUR REPRESENTATIVE
  2. Let the know who you are and where you live and what you do
  3. Ask them to vote YES on H 148 – Raising the Age of Marriage to 18

Talking Points

  • As a professional marriage officiant or town clerk, you are faced with the ethical dilemma: performing a ceremony that you know is not in the best interest of the minor child or violating the law by refusing.
  • This is about legal rights, NOT about maturity.
  • A child cannot retain an attorney, access domestic violence shelters, or sign a lease on a rental. If married, child protective services cannot protect them.
  • We do not want Vermont to become the destination marriage state in the Northeast for child traffickers to further their control over their victims.
Feel free to contact JPus if you have any questions or concerns.
Remember – as marriage officiants and town clerks, you are on the front lines. Your voice and perspective matters.

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Vermont Workshop on Child Marriage

JPus works to both raise awareness about the dangers of child marriage and advocate for no-exceptions legislation. This virtual workshop, to be held on January 25, 2023 at 12:00 Noon, is focused on the issue in Vermont, and addresses officiants’ quandary if asked to perform such a union. This informative workshop will highlight the social, emotional, and ethical problems connected with child marriage, the need for “brightline” (no exceptions) laws, and what Vermont marriage officiants, clerks and citizens can do to advocate for change. More information and registration info. 

Our Partners and Co-Hosts

Survey – Sustainable Ceremonies

How are you protecting the environment? Please answer our survey about the steps you take so your marriage ceremonies are more sustainable. We’ll then share the results in a member support article so all members can help reduce our carbon footprint.


Related Links

  • Read our blog article for couples about the steps they can take for a more sustainable wedding ceremony.
  • JPus advocates for issues that affect marriage officiants.
  • Learn more about the Justice of the Peace Association.

Governor Baker Signs Child Marriage Bill

It is official, and the Justice of the Peace Association is deeply honored to witness the momentous and long-overdue occasion. On September 9, 2022, Governor Charlie Baker ceremoniously signed the bill that ended child marriage in the state of Massachusetts.

After the private bill signing, speeches and celebration followed on the interior steps of the State House. It was an exciting day recognizing all of the hard work that went into protecting the state’s children from the human rights abuse of child marriage.


  • JPus managing member Loretta Jay with Representative Kay Khan. Rep Khan and Senator Harriet Chandler led the legislative efforts for six years until the bill finally passed.
  • The ceremonial pen
  • Governor Baker with legislators and advocates
  • JPus Managing Member Loretta Jay with the Unchained at Last crowd: Executive Director Fraidy Reiss, Samantha Marder and Becca Powell.
  • Fierce advocates: Senator Chandler, Survivor Jenn, Representative Khan, Representative Ruth Balser

Loretta Jay and Rep Kay Khan at bill signing to end child marriage in Massachusetts

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Khan Thanks Coalition to End Child Marriage

Rep Kay Khan led the charge to end child marriage in the stateThe Justice of the Peace Association is a founding member of the national Coalition to End Child Marriage. In addition, JPus is an active member of state coalitions with the same name.

Representative Kay Khan

We are grateful for Massachusetts State Representative Kay Khan ‘s leadership to end child marriage in the Commonwealth. Nonetheless, she thanks us! On May 31, 2022 she sent the following thanks and update to JPus and other Coalition members.

Dear Members of the Massachusetts Coalition to End Child Marriage,
Please know that I am exceedingly grateful to all of you who helped create and support the legislation which became H.1709/S.937,  An Act to End Child Marriage in Massachusetts, filed this session by myself, Representative Paul Donato and Senator Harriette Chandler.
As you now know, as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 House Budget debate, H.1709 was filed as a budget amendment to the House Budget by House Minority Leader Bradley Jones and ultimately adopted.
The response to this bill has been overwhelmingly positive with strong bipartisan support and I truly believe the monthly meetings of the coalition were instrumental in drawing attention to the need to move the bill forward and hopefully across the finish line soon.
The final passage will be debated in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget House-Senate Conference Committee. If passed, the bill will close the loophole in Massachusetts allowing for child marriage with parental and judicial consent and will empower children in the Commonwealth.
Thank you again, for your hard work and commitment to this important issue.
Kay Khan
State Representative
11th Middlesex District (Newton)
State House, Room 167
Boston, MA 02133

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Politics of Child Marriage

Challenges getting legislation passed to end child marriageJPus’ managing member, Loretta Jay, was interviewed about the politics that affect legislation to end child marriage. A visiting fellow from Turkey, Dr. Senem Ertan-Savas is the lead investigator of the study. She is with the  Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School.

This research will systematically examine the dynamics of legislation to increase the age of marriage in different states. Furthermore, it will also investigate the debates around minimum age of marriage and the interaction between actors or factors involved in the legislation processes.

“It’s exciting that the Justice of the Peace Association’s advocacy efforts to end child marriage are recognized and included in this important research,” says Loretta Jay.  One area Dr. Ertan-Savas asked about is the strategies JPus thinks are  the most effective. (Answer: mobilizing constituents and behind the scenes work to resolve potential roadblocks.) Indeed, one of the most frustrating and sad realizations is when legislation to end child marriage stalls – even though there is no lobby opposing it.

When finished, the work will be submitted for publication in a scientific journal. Furthermore, a book is also in the works. Of course, JPus will share the published work when ready.

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