Bill to repeal child marriage law loophole heading to Senate floor

Updated: Jan. 22, 2019 at 6:15 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Girls as young as 12-years-old have been allowed to be married in South Carolina.

State law says the youngest age you can get married is 16 with parent permission. But, a loophole in the South Carolina Code of Law allows girls under the age of 16 to be married right now.

Some are calling for a change to that law.

Lawmakers have filed bills to repeal a section of the law and to make sure 16 is the minimum age, with no exceptions.

According to Section 200-1-300 of the South Carolina Code of Law:

A marriage license may be issued to an unmarried female and male under the age of eighteen years who could otherwise enter into a marital contract, if such female be pregnant or has borne a child, under the following conditions:

(a) the fact of pregnancy or birth is established by the report or certificate of at least one duly licensed physician;

(b) she and the putative father agree to marry;

(c) written consent to the marriage is given by one of the parents of the female, or by a person standing in loco parentis, such as her guardian or the person with whom she resides, or, in the event of no such qualified person, with the consent of the superintendent of the department of social services of the county in which either party resides;

(d) without regard to the age of the female and male; and

(e) without any requirement for any further consent to the marriage of the male.

There is no minimum age set. That’s why girls as young as 12 have been married in South Carolina.

“I don’t think it was ever brought to the attention of anyone before. I didn’t realize the law was out there to be honest with you. When it was brought to our attention it was a no brainer for me. We need to get this out there,” Senator Katrina Frye Shealy (R- Lexington) said.

Sen. Shealy filed the bill.

According to marriage license data from the Department of Health and Environmental Control, from 2000 to 2015 there were over 5000 children married in South Carolina. The majority of them were married to adult men, according to the data.

The bill will be discussed on the Senate floor later this week.

Lawmakers say if this bill does become law, previous marriages will not be voided.

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