It is time to make sure that all young people have the best chance to succeed in life. Thus, it is time to raise the minimum age to get married in Minnesota and North Dakota to 18. Currently, people as young as 16 can get married in these states, if their parents consent. It shouldn’t matter what the parents say. Age 16 is too young to get married. There should be no exceptions.

This issue is more common than many people realize. About 60,000 people a year under 18 get married in the U.S. The vast majority of them are girls getting married to older men.

“There is no good reason for people to get married that young,” said Fargo-Moorhead marriage counselor Tina Johnson. “Their brains are still developing. They are not mature enough.”

“I can’t imagine why a parent would consent to letting a child marry at 16,” said Fargo-Moorhead divorce attorney Richard Linnerooth. “A lot of my clients realize they were too young and should never have been married.”

Many of these marriages occur when the girl is 16 or 17, and the man is at least 22. If they were having sex as an unmarried couple, it would be considered statutory rape. If they are married, then their sexual relationship is legal. Something is wrong with this picture.

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Studies show getting married that young makes life extremely difficult. Teenage brides, many of whom are pregnant, are much more likely to drop out of high school and live a life in poverty. Also, the divorce rate for people under 18 getting married is a stunning 70%.

Fortunately, some state legislatures are paying attention. Last year, Delaware and New Jersey became the first two states to set the marriage age at 18 without exceptions. In Minnesota, a similar bill was introduced earlier this year. It unanimously passed in the House. The Republican-controlled Senate shamefully never took the bill up.

Rep. Kaohly Her, D-St. Paul, introduced the bill in the Minnesota House. She knows several girls who got married before they turned 18.

“We should not be allowing children to get married,” Her said. “The risks are too high at that age. We know that girls that young are three times more likely to get beaten.”

Ashley Heitkamp is a Fargo-Moorhead divorce attorney who supports raising the marriage age. Four of her divorced female clients were under 18 and pregnant when they got married.

“The most important decision in your life is who you marry,” Heitkamp said. “People are making that decision too lightly.”

“Many girls who get married that young live hard lives and never reach their potential,” Her said. “We need to protect our children.”

For many girls, getting married at 16 is a disaster waiting to happen. The state laws need to be changed

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