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Marriage compromise: Common ground or a new fight?

January 01. 2018 9:07PM

We hate to jinx it by pointing it out, but there may be an actual good-faith, bipartisan compromise brewing in the New Hampshire Legislature.

Last year, the Legislature got pretty far down the road to raising the age at which teenagers could legally marry. Current law allows girls to marry as young as 13 and boys at 14, with permission of parents and a family court.

Rep. Jackie Cilley, D-Barrington, sponsored a bill to raise that age to 16, but the House Children and Family Law Committee raised it to 18. Opponents argued that there were special circumstances where it would be appropriate for young people to get married short of their 18th birthdays, such as a serviceman about to deploy.

But compromise was nowhere to be found, and the issue turned into a political cudgel, with one side accusing the other of promoting marriage between middle-schoolers. There was common ground to raise the permissible marriage age to 16, but some House members preferred dysfunction and acrimony to problem solving.

As we noted in March, society has changed, and marriages between minors have become quite rare. Updating the law to reflect these changes is appropriate. So is providing a little flexibility.

Cilley’s bill would seem to be a reasonable compromise. Let’s see if lawmakers can agree to agree, or if they insist on finding something to fight about.

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