Fifteen-year-olds looking to wed may soon be legally barred after a bill raising Utah’s minimum marriage age to 16 easily cleared the House on Friday.
State representatives voted 55-6 for the bill, HB234, which requires parental consent and judicial approval for a 16- or 17-year-old to marry, and imposes a seven-year maximum age gap between a minor and their potential spouse.
“I see this as a way for us to protect children,” said bill sponsor Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, “and knowing that there are some special circumstances where a marriage might happen.”
Romero originally intended to ban all underage marriages in the state, but agreed to a more incremental compromise that would eliminate the ability of 15-year-old Utahns to marry and to impose judicial oversight for the marriages of older teens. Current law requires judicial approval at age 15, and only a parent’s consent beginning at age 16.
The seven-year age gap was added through an amendment by Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City. It would not apply to marriages between two adults, he said, but only when an older individual is seeking to marry a child.
“I think it provides greater protection and assurance that we’re not having coercive marriages being arranged,” he said.
While six representatives voted against the bill — all Republicans — none spoke against the proposal during its floor debate.
The bill will now move to the Utah Senate for consideration.