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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

You Now Have to Be At Least 17 to Get Married in Ohio

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2019 at 9:39 AM

  • Photo via Wikimedia Creative Commons
New restrictions regarding child marriage officially came into effect Monday, after former Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law in early January.

The new law states that both parties must be at least 18 years old to marry, or 17 with the completion of a waiting period and consent from juvenile court. Their age difference cannot be greater than four years.

Previously, the age minimum was 18 for males and 16 for females, but exceptions were granted in cases of pregnancy, with juvenile court and parental approval.

State Representatives Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) and John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) sponsored the bill after the Dayton Daily News published a 2017 investigation that revealed how widespread child marriage is in Ohio.

The paper found that more than 4,000 girls and 300 boys under the age of 17 were married from 2000 to 2015. An especially egregious case occurred between a 14-year-old pregnant girl, Kristi Hatfield, and a 48-year-old man, Daniel Bostwick, Jr., who avoided statutory rape charges after both Hatfield's family and a Montgomery County juvenile court judge approved the union.

"I was a typical 15-year-old and thought I was prepared for anything and thought I knew it all," Hatfield told the Daily News. "In actuality, I wasn’t prepared for any of it." The couple split up but never legally divorced; Bostwick died from cancer in 2014.

State Rep. Rogers cited the case as being particularly affecting when the bill passed.

Unfortunately, there is nothing in the bill that addresses federally approved same-sex marriage, which has yielded controversy. The law specifically defines marriage as between a male and a female.

"They had an opportunity to do it and they didn’t," Cincinnati family and LGBT+ lawyer Josh Langdon told the Dayton Daily News. "Basically, this reads like a big 'you can’t get married if you’re gay' law."

Ohio joins six other states that have set 17 as the minimum marriage age.

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