Gov. Mills recently announced she was allowing 24 bills to become law without her signature.

Unfortunately, one of those bills was L.D. 545, An Act To Ban Child Marriage. That might sound like a good thing – and it is, as far as it goes – but it only extends to children under the age of 16. Children who are at least 16 and under 18 can still be married.

Unfortunately, too, Gov. Mills did not append a message, as she did with some other bills, explaining her decision: Does she believe in marriage for children 16 and 17? Why didn’t she sign the bill? Does she have unexpressed reservations? Would she support a bill banning marriage under the age of 18?

Several states have already passed legislation ending all marriage before 18, including New Jersey and Delaware. Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are considering such legislation.

Why isn’t Maine?

Let’s be honest: This is an issue that affects mainly female minors. Of those minors married between 2000 and 2015, 87 percent were girls, according to a Frontline analysis, and in most cases, the marriage was between a minor and an adult. Few boys are forced to marry adults, so why is it OK for girls?

Let’s also be clear that the consequences of such youthful marriages are not positive. Child marriage often means abuse, poverty, ill health and lack of education. The price paid is high.

So why does Maine permit it?

Richard J. Kessler


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