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After several years of efforts, Alaska has taken action to protect children by limiting child marriage in the state. House Bill 62 does not ban child marriage but is an important first step to ending child marriage in the state. Until this year, Alaska had the lowest minimum marriage age set by law at just 14 and allowed older minors to marry with nothing more than parental permission.  

The new law, which passed both House and Senate with strong bipartisan majorities, raises the state’s minimum marriage age to 16. It also ensures that all minors will go before a judge before marrying, and mandates that minors may not marry a partner more than three years older. 

“Girls who marry underage often face devastating lifelong consequences, from worse health outcomes to higher dropout rates and increased likelihood of living in poverty,” said Casey Carter Swegman, Director of Public Policy at Tahirih Justice Center. “We are hopeful that this legislation, while it falls short of ending child marriage altogether, will mean fewer Alaskans face this fate. And we look forward to continuing to push Alaska legislators to end child marriage by setting the age of marriage at 18 without exceptions.” 

We are grateful to Rep. Matt Claman, who has worked for years to pass legislation addressing child marriage in Alaska, and to Rep. Sara Rasmussen who introduced the floor amendment that re-ignited the conversation and campaign.  

Most of all, we a proud of and grateful to Dawn Tyree, the survivor-advocate who quickly responded to Rep. Rasmussen’s amendment and brought together a coalition of survivors and other advocates to strengthen HB 62’s protections and get it across the finish line on short notice in the middle of the legislative session.  

This change was long overdue to protect Alaska’s children and is a positive step toward ending child marriage in the state. 

For further comments on this topic, please email [email protected]. 

 

The Tahirih Justice Center is a national, nonprofit organization that serves immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. By amplifying the experiences of survivors in communities, courts, and Congress, Tahirih’s mission is to create a world in which all people share equal rights and live in safety and with dignity.