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Map shows states where child marriage is legal after Washington’s law went into effect

A Washington law banning child marriage went into effect Wednesday, but most states still allow the practice.

An effort to end child marriage in the United States has gained momentum in recent years. In 2018, Delaware became the first state to do so, followed by eleven other states. Advocates for ending child marriage say minors who marry face unique challenges in the legal system and economic hardships, and remain vulnerable to abuse.

However, legislation to end this practice faced resistance from some religious groups and organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union. The ALCU previously warned that a California bill to end child marriage would have “unnecessarily and unnecessarily” infringed on “the fundamental rights of marriage without sufficient cause.”

According to Unchained at Last, an organization that fights for laws to end child marriage, approximately 300,000 minors have been married in the United States since 2000.

protest against child marriage
Protesters gather at the Massachusetts State House in Boston for a demonstration against child marriage on September 22, 2021. Washington state’s law ending child marriage went into effect this week.

JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

In March, Democrat Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, signed a bill banning child marriage, and the legislation formally became law on Thursday, according to The Washington State Standard.

In signing the bill, Inslee said the legislation “underscores our commitment to protecting children from trauma and abuse.”

Under current state law, a parent can give written consent for their 17-year-old child to be married, and a superior court judge can also grant an exception for a person under 17 to marry, he said. This law has made the abuse of young people possible.”

Contacted by Newsweek On Friday, a spokesperson for Inslee pointed to comments he made during the signing for comment.

Thirty-eight states still allow child marriage. Besides Washington, only the following states have raised their minimum marriage age to 18: Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

In Puerto Rico, anyone under the age of 21 is considered a minor. Those 18 years or older can marry with parental consent.

After Washington, New Hampshire could be the next state to end child marriage. With bipartisan support, the legislature passed a bill to raise the minimum marriage age to 18. The bill has been sent to Governor Chris Sununu’s desk for his signature. Sununu has not said whether he plans to sign or veto the bill.

In May, a bill that would end child marriage failed to gain support in the Missouri Legislature. Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, a Republican, introduced the legislation, which would have set the minimum marriage age for Missouri at 18.

Fraidy Reiss, the founder and director of Unchained at Last, said this earlier Newsweek that its goal is for all states to end child marriage by 2030.

“States can wait for the federal government to take action and leave the state’s girls vulnerable to this type of human trafficking, or they can do the right thing and make marriage at age 18,” Reiss said.