Child Marriage Bill Faces Uncertain Future in State House

Feb 7, 2018

Arizona is among half of U.S. states that don’t have a minimum age to marry. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, a bill introduced in the state legislature would prevent minors from obtaining a marriage license.

Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) introduced the bill that would set Arizona's minimum age to marry at 18.
Credit Arizona Capitol Times

Under state law, anyone younger than 18 can marry with a parent’s permission, and those under 16 also require the approval of a superior court judge. In addition, the court can mandate premarital counseling and for the minor to stay in school.

But Scottsdale Republican Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who introduced the bill, worries those protections just aren’t adequate.

"We don’t let children or minors do a lot of things: smoke, buy lottery tickets, drink alcohol, vote. I don’t see why we have exceptions in the law for them to marry. One minor getting married is one minor too many," she says.

Ugenti-Rita says the majority of such marriages are between underage girls and adult men, and studies have shown they’re linked to higher rates of domestic violence, poverty and health problems.

Coconino County officials say underage marriage is very infrequent. It’s more common in highly populated areas of Arizona like Maricopa County.

Ugenti-Rita’s bill hasn’t yet received a committee hearing, and she doubts it’ll be considered during this legislative session.