Sununu signs bill raising marriage age to 18

By ETHAN DEWITT

New Hampshire Bulletin

Published: 06-18-2024 6:04 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill Friday that will bar those under 18 from getting marriage licenses in New Hampshire, adding the Granite State to a list of 11 other states that have fully banned marriage for minors.

Senate Bill 359 states that: “No person below the age of 18 years shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void.” Under current law, that age is 16. 

The new law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2025. 

New Hampshire lawmakers most recently raised the marriage age in 2018, from 14 to 16. The current law allows those 16 and 17 to apply in writing for a marriage license to a state family court, which would make the final determination. But SB 359 will repeal any judicial alternatives in that law. 

With its no-exceptions 18-and-older marriage age, New Hampshire joins Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, according to the Most Policy Initiative. Maine allows 17-year-olds to be married with written consent from their parents. But anyone under 18 who is married in another state after Jan. 1 and moves to New Hampshire will not have their marriage license recognized in the Granite State.

This year, some Republicans had argued that marriage should remain an option for 16- and 17-year-olds to help provide stability for teenage pregnancies. But Democrats and other Republicans who voted to raise the age contended that marriage at those ages is too early and could give rise to abuse and coercion. 

“In 2018, New Hampshire took the first step in this process and raised the marriage age to 16,” Sununu said in a statement after his signature. “This legislation is supported by a majority of our citizens and is a commonsense move that is right for New Hampshire.”

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