Rep Kevin O’Connell, in the 131st session, again submitted a bill, LD443: An Act to Prohibit Marriage of Any Person Under 18 Years of Age. Initially, JPus supported the bill and submitted testimony to the JointCommittee on Judiciary. Unfortunately, an amendment was added changing the minimum age to 17 – and it passed. But, not good enough.
In the first regular session of the 130th Maine legislative body, LD622 was introduced by Representative Kevin O’Connell of Brewster. The act amends the law to completely prohibit marriage of any person under 18 years of age. The Justice of the Peace Association submitted testimony strongly supporting the legislation. Read JPus’ testimony to the Judiciary Committee. The bill did not pass.
On January 1, 2020, the minimum age to marry in Maine was increased to 16. However, JPus did not support the bill that led to this change. That is because our membership voted overwhelmingly to join the Coalition to End Child Marriage, with a hard stop, no exceptions stance on child marriage. Prior to 1/1/2020, a child of any age could marry with parental consent.
Sixteen and 17-year-old children can easily be forced to marry before they turn 18 and become legal adults. Parental “consent” does not mitigate that danger – When a child is forced to marry, the perpetrators are almost always the parents. The children face overwhelming legal and practical barriers if they try to leave home, enter a domestic-violence shelter, retain an attorney or bring a legal action.
JPus members are professionals who take an oath to execute the laws of the state, and to abide by our Code of Ethics. Current Maine law allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to wed puts these two at odds with one another as our ethics code requires officiants to act in the best interest of their clients. Child marriage devastates girls’ lives. It destroys their health, education and economic opportunities, and increases their risk of experiencing violence.
- This Portland Press Herald news story cited the Justice of the Peace Association and its managing member Loretta Jay’s position opposing child marriage.
- Information about our advocacy for officiants about child and forced marriage.
- Education and training for officiants about child and forced marriage
- JPus has been on the forefront of legislative activity to end child marriage in other states
- Follow our state-by-state changes to marriage laws
- Membership voted to join the Coalition to End Child Marriage
- Working with our partners amplifies our voice and helps achieve our goals