Editor's note: This has been updated to reflect the New Jersey governor's veto.
Most Americans think of child marriage as a vestige of a bygone era. And yet in every state, people under 18 are allowed to marry.
Some states set minimum ages for brides and grooms — sometimes as low as 13 or 14 — and usually require the permission of a parent, judge, or both before a minor can wed. But laws in about half the states allow children of any age to marry, as long as they receive the proper permission.
That may be changing. This year legislators in 10 states have introduced bills to raise the marriage age. Proponents say updating marriage laws, which in many states are more than a century old, will help protect children from being pushed into marriages by parents and predators. Some lawmakers, disturbed by instances of pregnant girls heading to the courthouse to marry older men, argue that marriage licenses should not be given to men who have committed statutory rape.
Young brides who say they were forced down the aisle are backing the efforts, as are justices of the peace who say current law requires them to approve marriages between young girls and older men.