Between 2000 and 2015, at least 207,468 children were married in the U.S., and 3,285 or more of those cases were in Oregon and mostly involved girls married to adult men.
Recently, Delaware became the first and only state to outlaw all marriage under the age of 18. In all other U.S. states, minors can marry through legal loopholes, and often there is no minimum age for marriage.
In Oregon, 17-year-olds can marry with parental consent. This law fails to address the fact that when a child is forced to marry, the perpetrators are almost always the parents.
All child marriage should be eliminated in Oregon. This issue is not about emotional maturity, but rather legal capacity. Minors under 18 lack the legal rights to safely navigate a marriage. They cannot easily enter a domestic violence shelter, retain an attorney or file a legal action in their own name.
The law requires that youth shelters inform parents of the whereabouts of their children, which puts victims in danger if their parents are complicit in the abuse. Child Protective Services will often not intervene in child marriages if the parents consent to the marriage.
Child marriage can also have devastating effects on health, education and economic opportunities.
As a group of high school juniors and seniors, we urge our legislators to end child marriage in Oregon. It is a threat to the safety and freedom of our peers.
Eloise Parish Mueller, president
South Eugene High School