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North Carolina legislators near final approval to raise minimum marriage age

An effort to raise the minimum age to get married in North Carolina from 14 to 16 neared final legislative approval on Wednesday.

The House voted unanimously for the measure, which also would require a 16- or 17-year-old to obtain formal legal permission to marry. And the spouses of these youths could be no more than four years older than them.

Current law requires parental consent for 16- and 17-year-olds, and 14- and 15-year-olds can only marry if a pregnancy is involved and a judge authorizes the marriage. There is no age limit gap between the couple.

The Senate already passed a similar version of the bill unanimously in May. Senators still must formally agree to minor changes inserted into the House bill before it goes to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk. That could happen in the coming week.

Surrounding states have increased the minimum marriage age and marriage rules in recent years, and officials say North Carolina has become a destination for out-of-state couples involving an underage partner. Bill supporters said young women who married while children are more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of their husbands and live in poverty.

The age-gap limit also would bring restrictions more in line with North Carolina’s statutory rape law.

Bill sponsors initially sought to raise the minimum age to 18 with no exceptions, but too many colleagues opposed the idea, leading to the compromise.

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