End Child Marriage in the U.S.? You Might Be Surprised at Who’s Opposed

In California, a bill to set the minimum marriage age at 18 — the state's age of consent — failed in 2017 after objections from lawmakers and liberal groups such as the state's American Civil Liberties Union

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David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Even as more states take action to end child marriage, concerns about government overreach, along with scant data about the extent of the problem, have driven skepticism to reform across the country, NBC News reports. The divide has sometimes created unlikely alliances between conservative politicians and liberal-leaning groups, including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

In California and Louisiana, opponents of change have argued that raising the minimum marriage age is an ineffective solution since other child welfare laws already can prevent young girls from being exploited. And other states, such as Massachusetts, have raised doubts about the extent of the problem, even as experts note that survivors are often reluctant to come forward.

A bill that would have ended child marriage in Idaho — which has no minimum age for couples who want to wed — died in the Statehouse this year. Republican lawmakers, who control the Legislature, opposed it, including state Rep. Bryan Zollinger, who said it "went too far."

"Obviously, I'm against child marriage," the GOP lawmaker told NBC News. "But basically marriage is a contract between people that shouldn't require government permission."

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