Law signed banning all underage marriages in Connecticut

Connecticut’s age to marry will be 18 – no exceptions – under a new law Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz signed on Friday. It comes after years of emotional pleas from people forced into child marriage.

John Craven

Jun 23, 2023, 9:39 PM

Updated 302 days ago

Share:

Connecticut’s age to marry will be 18 – no exceptions – under a new law Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz signed on Friday. It comes after years of emotional pleas from people forced into child marriage.
At just 16 years old, Jenn Bradbury’s mother forced her to marry a 44 year-old family friend. She got pregnant five times in five years.
“I didn't finish high school. I dropped out,” she said. “When everyone was planning prom, I was planning for the arrival of my child.”
Bradbury and other survivors from the national group Unchained at Last wore chains and bridal dresses in the state Senate gallery as lawmakers passed the bill earlier this month. Advocates have pushed Connecticut to ban underage marriage for years.
Currently, 16 and 17 year-olds can obtain a marriage license, but only if their parents and a probate approve. The judge must find that the teen consented, was capable of making the decision and was not coerced.
Given the existing protections, some lawmakers argued a ban isn't necessary.
“How many times has somebody in the state of Connecticut invoked this law and gotten married? Thirty-one,” said state Rep. Craig Fishbein (R-Wallingford), during the Connecticut House debate last month.
But the law’s backers said existing protections simply aren't enough.
“We heard the stories of women who were forced to marry,” said state Rep. Jillian Gilchrest (D-West Hartford).
One top Republican agreed.
“This may not have been brought to our attention that it happens in Connecticut a lot, but even once is too much,” said state Sen. John Kissel (R-Enfield), co-chair of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.
The new law prohibits all marriages under 18 – even with parental consent and even for emancipated youth. It takes effect on July 1.
Connecticut is the ninth state to raise the age to 18. Most states in the Northeast have already made the move, with Vermont joining the list just weeks ago.
Until 2017, Connecticut had no age limit for marriages. That's still the case in six states, including California and Michigan.
Connecticut's new law comes too late for Bradbury.
“I put up with it for a long time,” she said.
Byeswicz signed the law in place of Gov. Ned Lamont, who is at the Paris Air Show this week with Connecticut aerospace contractors.


More from News 12