Marriage Age Target of Bills In Legislature
Salt Lake Tribune 3Jan99
By Judy Fahys: Salt Lake Tribune
In the upcoming session of the Utah legislature, legislators
will consider two bills to raise the state's marriage age to
16. Currently Utah state law permits 14- and 15-year-olds to
marry, with consent of their parents and a judge.
In response to the bill, the Salt Lake Tribune surveyed 465
adults and found that 58 percent of Utahns believe the minimum
marriage age should be 18, while 14 percent think that the
minimum age should be 19 or higher. Just 15 percent thought
that the minimum age should be 16 and only five of those
surveyed thought that the current law was OK.
The poll showed similar support regardless of the respondent's
age, gender, income level, region or political affiliation.
The only group that polled differently was members of the LDS
Church. Only 67 percent of the members of the LDS Church in
the poll said that the marriage age should be 18 or older.
Rep. Carl Saunders, R-Ogden, thought that the poll results
were "encouraging," but noted that last year the Senate
narrowly defeated his bill to raise the age. "Most people
are aghast it's 14," says Sen. Scott Howell. "The comment
we get all the time is, `That's absurd.'"
Only three states in the U.S. allow 14-year-olds to marry,
and nearly 1,000 teenagers 14 to 17 married in 1996.
Howell claims that raising the age will help curb polygamous
marriages, but Carmen Thompson, of Tapestry of Polygamy,
doubts it will make a difference because most polygamous
marraiges are performed in secret and are not considered
legal. In a recent trip to southern Utah, Thompson says
she learned of a marriage involving 8-year-olds.
Representative Bill Wright disagrees with the bills, however.
He says that he knows good marriages that started as young
as 15 and he thinks that teens who want to take responsibility
for pregnancy should be permitted to marry.