House Votes to End Child Marriages 

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Rep. Margaret Drye, R-Plainfield, speaks against Senate Bill 359 to make 18 the legal marriage age on the House floor Thursday.


CONCORD — After years of trying, both the House and Senate have approved a bill to end child marriages.

On Thursday the House voted 192-174 to restrict marriage to those 18 years old and older, despite two attempts to make exceptions to the limit.

Senate Bill 359 had unanimous support in the Senate but butted up against concerns in the House “for freedom loving couples” who may be dealing with the pregnancy of a minor.

Supporters of the bill said there is ample evidence to make 18 the legal age for marriage with no exceptions, as those who are younger and marry have a greater risk of dropping out of high school, not going to college, domestic abuse and vulnerability.

 “We are not looking to deny children the right to marriage,” said Rep. Cassandra Levesque, D-Barrington, who has led the effort to end child marriage in the legislature the past few years. “We are looking to delay marriage until they fully understand and realize what they are getting into when they marry.”

But opponents said the bill needs exceptions such as allowing emancipated youths, who have gone through the court process and are living away from their parents to make that decision.

And they argued a 17 year old impregnated by an older partner would be allowed to have a more orderly life through marriage or a soldier leaving for overseas should be able to marry his pregnant girlfriend so she would receive lifetime benefits.

“I have a problem with a rule with no exceptions,” said Rep. Margaret Drye, R-Plainfield. “I have the personal experience to realize some young people need support, some by their family, some by marriage and some by both.”

Rep. Josh Yokela, R-Fremont, proposed two amendments that would have made an exception for minors who had gone through the court process to become emancipated minors, saying it is not an inherently immoral action they would take if they decide to marry.

Rep. Jess Edwards, R-Auburn, said the bill would make abortion a more attractive alternative to having a baby if “a freedom loving couple” could not marry.

But the House defeated both amendments before passing the bill.

Rep. Peter Petrigno, D-Milford, argued emancipated minors are not allowed to vote, or purchase tobacco, alcohol or firearms and marriage should not be the only exception.

“Children should not be getting married,” he said, “and there should be no exceptions.”

The bill now goes to the governor.

Parental Action

The House defeated Senate 341, which would have mandated educators and school staff disclose — in complete and honest fashion — information to a child’s parents if requested.

Supporters of the bill say it is necessary due to the proliferation of school district policies that prohibit employees from disclosing information about students.

And they said the bill is about parental rights that the courts have upheld.

But opponents argued the bill would make students vulnerable to abuse or neglect, particularly LGBTQ students.

They argued the bill would also violate the privacy rights of students.

A proposed amendment to the bill was killed on a 182-179 vote, before the House voted 185-176 to indefinitely postpone the bill, meaning its contents and similar bills cannot come before the House again this two-year term.

“NEA-New Hampshire applauds the House vote to reject SB 341, which would have jeopardized the health and wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable youth,” said Megan Tuttle, President of NEA-New Hampshire. “Educators are committed to the success of every Granite State student; we will never stop fighting to ensure public schools are welcoming and safe learning environments for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Student Placements

The House initially approved Senate Bill 417, which increases guidelines for out-of-home placements for children.

The opponents said there were problems with sections of the bill that would impact parents not accused of abuse or neglect, but supporters said it would mean safer environments for children and would allow more children to remain in their communities.

The bill passed on a 191-174 vote and now goes to the House Finance Committee for review before a final vote.

Garry Rayno may be reached at

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