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Sununu Signs Bill Raising Marriage Age in N.H.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

A bipartisan bill raising the marriage age in New Hampshire to 16 is now law after a signing ceremony in Concord.

The measure, which was backed by Governor Chris Sununu and championed by Cassie Levesque, a teenage Girl Scout from Barrington, raises the age from 13 for girls and 14 for boys.

“I think this is another great example of the power of New Hampshire citizens,” said Sununu. “It was a lot [of work] for the Representatives, the Senators, and most of all Cassie, who really enlightened, I think, the entire state.”

On the table next to the signed bill and ceremonial pens sat Levesque’s thick binder of research on the dangers to young girls who enter into child marriage. Now a freshman at Southern New Hampshire University, Levesque’s advocacy work on the issue earned her the Girl Scout’s Gold Award, the organization’s highest honor.

“This legislation is an important step forward in protecting young people, most especially young women who are disproportionately represented among underage petitioners to marry,” said Rep. Jackie Cilley, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Similar efforts to raise the marriage age have failed in recent years, with some religious conservatives warning that it would lead to more out of wedlock childbirths.

During this legislative session, Sununu bolstered Levesque’s cause by offering early public support for the bill.

In addition to the law raising the marriage age, Sununu also signed related legislation that prohibits judges from granting permission for a marriage involving a minor if the older party, without being legally married, would be guilty of sexual assault.

A third bill signed by Sununu states that judges shall not sign off on marriages involving a person under the age of consent unless there is clear and convincing evidence the marriage is in the child’s best interest.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at
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