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Letter: Stop allowing child marriage in N.Y.

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The state of New York wants to change the law as it relates to minors being able to marry.

We've just learned that since 1929, New York has allowed children as young as 14 to marry, and they can do it with parental approval!

Records between 2000 and 2010, nearly 3,900 minors were wed in the state, mostly in marriages arranged by parents whose religious or cultural traditions embrace the practice.

Those of us who have worked on our family's genealogy have discovered that the marriages of even our most recent ancestors show it normally occurred between the ages of 12 and 15. (It is not uncommon for most doing family research to be able to trance their lineage to the American colonies which typically followed the English tradition.)

On my own family tree I discovered that Mary Hathaway (Virginia, 1689) was only 9 when she was married to William Williams.

Historically, the age of consent for a sexual union was determined by sometimes custom, or a matter for families to decide. Most of the time early marriages coincided with signs of puberty: such as menstruation for a girl and pubic hair for a boy.

According to Wikipedia – “Marriageable age (or marriage age) is the minimum age at which a person is allowed by law to marry, either as a right or subject to parental or other forms of consent.”

In more recent years – especially in Western countries – marriages of teenagers have become rare, with their frequency having rapidly declined during the past few decades.

“However, there are still cases where a girl is pregnant and the pregnancy happened as a result of sexual assault,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women New York, a group that has lobbied for the change in the state law. “But her parents are forcing her to marry because being an out-of-wedlock teen mother is a worse social standing than suffering a sexual assault in silence.”

This past September's annual “Miss American Teenager” pageant on national TV revealed girls between the ages of 13 and 19 in bikini bathing suits that showed them all fully developed. And, if you want to see a reason why that part of the pageant might need to be dropped because it's an obvious illustration of sexual exploitation, then I suggest you check out their website at

Joyce Hackett Smith-Moore



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