America’s child marriage crisis once again broke national headlines this week. The latest in this abusive institution: Idaho’s antiquated and unacceptable laws and their role in perpetuating an abusive system that entraps minors.
Idaho currently allows 16- and 17-year-olds to be married simply with parental consent. With parents frequently the perpetrators of abusive child marriages, these laws do little to prevent minors from being forced into harmful arranged marriages.
As the Washington Post reports, this exact, nightmarish situation unfolded earlier this year and reached the Idaho Supreme Court.
A Failed Initial Effort
This isn’t the first time the Potato State has been in the spotlight regarding child marriage. Idaho has been the target of several legislative efforts to raise its minimum marital age. After all, our partners at Unchained At Last have found it to possess among the highest incidence rates of child marriage nationwide.
Shortly after Delaware became the first state to eliminate child marriage in 2018, lawmakers in Idaho attempted to raise the marital floor to age 16. Despite the bill’s bipartisan sponsors, the Idaho House of Representatives voted 28-39 to defeat the measure.
Idaho Made Progress Against Child Marriage in 2020
Fortunately, a similar bill was successfully passed the following year. The measure made it to Governor Brad Little’s desk, who signed it into law in March 2020. Sadly, the law didn’t go as far as its failed predecessor: while the minimum marital age was raised to 16, judicial approval for child marriages was cut from the final bill.
Though incomplete and containing dangerous parental consent provisions, this law was an important step toward eliminating child marriage.
Carver v. Hornish Highlights the Importance of 18, No Exceptions
The harms of the measure’s parental consent requirements were on full display in Carver v. Hornish. In a textbook example of a parent weaponizing their control of a child’s marital affairs, the case concerned a custody fight between Erin Carver and her ex-husband.
As marriage would automatically emancipate their daughter and nullify the child support and custodial responsibilities of the father, Erin’s ex-husband sought to marry their daughter to a stranger. Shamefully, the state’s highest court chose on Tuesday to let the marital statutes stand. With nothing to protect them, countless young girls may follow in the coerced footsteps of Erin’s daughter.
But with your help, we can change that. We’re leading a grassroots movement to combat this abusive institution. We’re mobilizing thousands of young people and allies from across the United States to support this fight. With your support, we can be the generation that ends American child marriage.
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