New state law prevents marriage younger than 17

Children under age 17 will no longer be permitted to marry in Ohio as a new child marriage law takes effect today.

The new law comes in the wake of a Dayton Daily News investigation that found 4,443 girls age 17 or younger were married in Ohio between 2000 and 2015, including 59 who were 15 and younger. State records show three girls age 14 were married, including one pregnant bride who married a 48-year-old man.

Related: Should children be allowed to marry? In Ohio, thousands do

Related: At 14, Ohio woman married 48-year-old man; said she'd do it again

The new law raises the minimum marriage age to 18 for both parties but allows for 17-year-olds to marry if they have juvenile court consent, go through a 14-day waiting period and the age differential between the two isn’t more than four years.

Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the measure into law on Jan. 8, shortly before leaving office.

Previous state law set the marriage age at 16 for females and 18 for males but allowed younger Ohioans to marry if they had judicial and parental consent. In effect, that meant there was no legal floor for how young someone could marry in Ohio.

Advocates for stricter marriage laws say Ohio’s laws are too lenient, setting girls up for failure and even exploitation.

A national study by the Tahirih Justice Center found that between 2000 and 2015, more than 200,000 children under age 18 were married in America. In 2017, most state laws set the minimum marriage age at 18 but allowed for exceptions.

Tahirih Senior Counsel Jeanne Smooth applauded Ohio’s new law, saying: “With the new law’s safeguards in place against forced marriages and other serious risks of marrying young, we hope it will make a significant difference in Ohio, improving protections for vulnerable girls and giving them a fighting chance at a safe and healthy future.”


In September 2017, our Columbus Bureau reporter Laura Bischoff uncovered something that shocked Ohio lawmakers – that adults can still marry children in Ohio.

Her investigation found that kids as young as 14 are getting married. Bischoff uncovered that more than 4,400 girls younger than 18 were married in the state since 2000. State lawmakers have now taken action due to Bischoff’s reporting. The bill was signed by Gov. John Kasich before he left office. The law takes effect today.

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