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Governor Backs Bill to Raise N.H. Marriage Age to 16

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Gov. Chris Sununu says he supports a bill that would increase the state's minimum age for marriage to 16 years old.


In a letter to lawmakers Wednesday, Sununu described the marriage of a 13-year-old girl as "unconscionable." That's the minimum age for girls to marry in the state; for boys, it's 14, though both require parental consent and approval of a judge.


The Republican-led House rejected a bill last year that would have raised the minimum age to 18. Lawmakers are now considering a bill to raise the minimum age to 16 for both genders. 


There was a sign of an increasing support for the change, compared to last year, on NHPR's The Exchange on Wednesday.  Republican Rep. Dan Itse of Fremont said 16 seems like a reasonable proposal.

[THE EXCHANGE: How Young Is Too Young To Get Married?]

Itse is vice chair of the House Children and Family Law Committee, which is reviewing the legislation.

Democratic Rep. Jackie Cilley of Barrington, a prime sponsor of the bill, says 16 should be "the absolute red line in the sand." She says she will continue to support 18, so that there is uniformity and consistency in laws for minors. 


Sununu says teenagers are not at a point in their lives where they are capable of making such a paramount decisions.


Sununu said there should be no exceptions for those younger than 16, and a requirement for a judge to consider clear and convincing evidence before approving 16- and 17-year-olds for marriage. The governor also backs legislation that would prohibit judges from authorizing marriage in which sex between the parties would constitute sexual assault.


There were 88 cases of marriage involving a minor in the state between 2004 and 2015.


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