Freedom of Religion

Old Enough to Have Sex, But Not to Marry

An interesting illustration of changed mores.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Throughout much of American history, statutory rape laws had exceptions for married couples, and minors were allowed to marry with parental consent (though many states set a threshold age, albeit below 18, even for that). There was also a provision allowing minors to marry when the girl was pregnant.

The New Jersey Legislature, however, just passed a bill banning legal marriages involving under-18-year-olds; the vote was 30-5 in the Senate and 59-0 in the Assembly. (As I read the bill, it does not forbid religious marriage ceremonies, assuming the parties don't get a legal marriage license.) The NorthJersey.com (Nicholas Pugliese) reports that it's not clear whether Gov. Phil Murphy will sign the bill; Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it last time the bill was passed, writing,

This bill would establish an absolute ban on the issuance of marriage and civil union licenses ("marriage licenses") for people under age 18. New Jersey law currently permits the issuance of these licenses to 16 and 17 year-olds with parental consent and to persons below age 16 with both parental consent and judicial approval.

I agree that protecting the well-being, dignity, and freedom of minors is vital, but the severe bar this bill creates is not necessary to address the concerns voiced by the bill's proponents and does not comport with the sensibilities and, in some cases, the religious customs, of the people of this State.

All 50 states have established minimum ages for the issuance of marriage licenses and all 50 states have statutory exceptions. New Jersey should not depart from that norm. However, to ensure that the well-being of minors seeking to get married in our State is secured, I am recommending that this bill be amended so that a marriage license no longer be issued for a person under the age of 16.

I also would require judicial approval for the issuance of a marriage license to persons who are age 16 and 17. Judges of the Superior Court have long been charged with reviewing marriage license applications for minors under the age of 16. I have confidence that the same ethical, moral, and common sense values will be used in considering applications for marriage licenses for minors age 16 and 17.

An exclusion without exceptions would violate the cultures and traditions of some communities in New Jersey based on religious traditions. Judicial oversight would permit consideration of these factors in the 16 and 17 year old timeframe.

Finally, it is disingenuous to hold that a 16 year old may never consent to marriage, although New Jersey law permits the very same 16 year old to consent to sex or obtain an abortion without so much as parental knowledge, let alone consent. That inconsistency in logic undercuts the alleged logic of an outright ban.

Last month, Delaware likewise banned legal marriage of under-18-year-olds.

This shouldn't be surprising: It may well be that, in today's society, marriage (which will generally involve sex) when you're too young to understand the risks is more dangerous than unmarried sex when you're too young to understand the risks. My guess is that, for most of us, if our 17-year-old sons or daughters told us they wanted to get married, we'd generally be more aghast (even if our consent was needed for the marriage) than if they told us they were starting to have sex. Moreover, shifting from the policy arguments to the political reality, in many states cultures in which 17-year-olds get married are more alien to most voters (and most legislators) than cultures in which 17-year-olds have sex. Still, it struck me as worth noting.

I should also say that I don't see much inconsistency in having different ages for marriage and for abortion. "If you want to get married, fine, but wait two years" may be a reasonable position for the law to take; whatever one might say about abortion rights or about parental consent laws, "wait two years to get that abortion" is not, biologically speaking, an option.

Nor do I see a strong religious freedom argument here, since the law, as I read it, only controls whether the state recognizes a marriage—it doesn't preclude religious marriage ceremonies. It does in effect make it impossible for under-16-year-olds to have sex with the people they were married to in a religious ceremony, since the ceremony wouldn't have legal effect and thus wouldn't trigger the spousal exception to statutory rape law. But I think the government can rightly protect under-16-year-olds against the consequences of sex and of marriage in this situation, notwithstanding anyone's religious objections.

The key question, I think, is whether this sort of law is really in the interest of the pretty narrow group of minors who are actually likely to marry at 16 or 17. (There may be a separate question as to under-16-year-olds, but this law extends to 16- and 17-year-olds as well.) Would they be better off in a legally recognized marriage, or (what I expect is the alternative) in a purely religiously recognized marriage in which they are having sex and likely having children? I have no really informed opinion on this subject, but I'd love to hear what our readers think.

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer.

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  1. When I was 17 (seven years ago) I wanted to become engaged because I knew that I loved my wife and we would stay together no matter what. I would have been fine with marriage but I don’t think that would have flown with her family. I don’t think any of my peers were considering marriage at the same time but plenty were having sex. Most people that age wanting to get married are going to be pretty committed, if the partner is the same age. Besides, the state shouldn’t be involved in judging the strength or virtue of any marriages.

    If somebody at 17 (or 16) wants to get married I think judicial approval is enough to suss out the bad cases from the good. The only problems I can see would be kids getting married to much older people (almost all men). In those cases I don’t think the older people would be that invested in getting legally married, if they were only in it for exploitation.

    Our local area had a case about ten years ago where a very conservative Muslim family married one of the young girls (high school age) to a much older man. The daughter and her mother, at least, were very unhappy with this arrangement but the family tried to go through with the marriage. However, it wasn’t a legal marriage. Most of the people involved were older and largely ignorant of our cultural and legal norms. The man ended up getting arrested because the mom and daughter told some officials. Not offering 16 year olds marriage licenses wouldn’t have stopped this anyway.

  2. I wonder if this has anything to do with some types of immigrants who arrange marriages between young daughters and much older men. Of course, no one would say anything against such immigrants out loud, but…

    1. Well they can not say that was the idea by the way the bill is worded. Notice it dose not stop those under 18 from having sex nor does it say anything against a girl under age getting pregnant. But if a girl under 18 cannot get married then it should called statutory rape to get one pregnant but is not. The if the under 18 wants to get an abortion nothing will be done to catch the rapists. The girl will not be questioned to find out who the father of the fetus is nor will DNA samples will be taken to convict the rapists when arrested. But then it will only affect those of the more conservative christian sect and leave all those who don’t get state license to marry.

      1. There are only a few states where the age of consent is 18. It’s lower in the rest of the country.

    2. Well they can not say that was the idea by the way the bill is worded. Notice it dose not stop those under 18 from having sex nor does it say anything against a girl under age getting pregnant. But if a girl under 18 cannot get married then it should called statutory rape to get one pregnant but is not. The if the under 18 wants to get an abortion nothing will be done to catch the rapists. The girl will not be questioned to find out who the father of the fetus is nor will DNA samples will be taken to convict the rapists when arrested. But then it will only affect those of the more conservative christian sect and leave all those who don’t get state license to marry.

    3. I wonder if this has anything to do with some types of immigrants who arrange marriages between young daughters and much older men. Of course, no one would say anything against such immigrants out loud,

      Yup, no American religion has a long history of child marriage … only dem dirty mooslem immigrants.

      1. OTOH, we also have a long history of discrimination against that religion. It might be a two-fer.

  3. I think whether they would be better off in a purely religiously recognized marriage and having sex vs. having their marriage recognized partly depends on divorce laws.

    One big problem with underage marriages is the possibility that the younger spouse (generally the bride) has been pressured by parents to marry before she is mature enough to make the lifetime commitment.

    I tend to think the law permits 16 year olds to marry,16 year old should special access to divorce and alimony. If the state does not have no fault divorce, or requires a waiting period for no fault divorce, this should be waived if the under-age spouse wishes to file for divorce.

    I also think owing to the effect the young marriage can have on the younger spouses life, in the event of a divorce, the adult spouse should be required to pay alimony and maintenance, and with the default being the adult spouse being required to cover the costs of 4 years of college (provided the adult spouse has sufficient funds.)

    If divorce laws were modified to add this sort of protection, it ought to satisfy people who sincerely believe their religion supports these younger marriages.

    1. New Jersey Statutes 2A:34-1(1): Judgments of nullity of marriage may be rendered in all cases, when: e. The demand for such a judgment is by the wife or husband who was under the age of 18 years at the time of the marriage, unless such marriage be confirmed by her or him after arriving at such age.

      1. Judgement of nullity alone is not the same thing requiring the adult male to take financial responsibility for his “ex” and so insufficient. Does the NJ statue have any provision for adult spouses to pay alimony and give additional support to the minor spouse for a period after the married?

        Interrupting college education to marry is a big deal in terms of the course of ones life, and I think there needs to be provision that the adult spouse is seen to assume a larger responsibility for financially supporting the ex-child spouse in the event of dissolution in these particular cases.

        1. A NJ court can award alimony in a nullity case: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2…..14/42_.PDF

    2. “If the state does not have no fault divorce”

      Which all states have, I’m pretty sure

      1. “As of October 2010, no-fault divorce is allowed in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.”
        — Wikipedia checked 12 Jun 2018

        However easy or difficulty of requirements vary by state law, New York was the last to approve.

  4. But could it be subject to constitutional challenge?

    1. It implicates the fundamental right to marry. Analagous to (equal and opposite to Eisenstaedt v. Baird but not Cary v. Population services, it permits sex by single but not married persons, the analog of the distinction the Supreme Court consistently found unconstitutional in the early privacy cases. (If old enough to marry constitutionally means old enough to use contraceptives etc., why shouldn’t old enough to use contraceptives etc. constitutionally mean old enough to marry?)

    2. It violates religious freedom. Here there is a confluence of religious freedom with an additional fundamental right.

    1. How does it violate religious freedom?

      Seems to me that it more clearly delineates the distinction between religious and civil marriage.

    2. (1) The only sense in which this permits sex by single but not married persons is by preventing there from being married persons under 18. I don’t see how that is analogous to the contraception cases. In the contraception cases, there were both married and unmarried people having sex, and the constitutional problem was that they had different legal rights. Here we don’t have two different groups of people, so we don’t have different legal rights.

      As to your last question in the parenthesis, why shouldn’t old enough to use contraceptives mean old enough to marry? Because marriage is a much more permanent and life-changing decision than using contraceptives. Generally as teenagers get older they get more authority to make more important decisions over time, so it makes sense that the more significant decision (marriage) comes later.

      (2) Even if you are correct that this is at the confluence of an additional fundamental right and imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion (and I do see the argument for these propositions), I think the government has a compelling interest in protecting minors from the life-changing effects of a bad marriage, and that this law is narrowly tailored to that interest, so it should pass Free Exercise Clause scrutiny.

      1. Using contraceptives is a permanent and life-changing decision. Getting married in New Jersey when you’re under 18 is a decision that you can back out of at any time before you turn 18.

        1. No, it isn’t. Having a baby is a permanent and life changing decision. Not having a baby, through either contraception or abortion, is not. And yes, I understand what what you were implying.

          1. No, they both are.

            Having a baby changes your life.

            Having an abortion changes your life.

  5. Just do like my parents did and go to Vegas. Jersey has to recognize marriages entered legally in other states.

    1. Maybe. But you need to explain why they ‘have’ to recognize a Nevada marriage license when they do not (somehow) ‘have’ to recognize a Nevada carry permit.

      1. They don’t have to recognize a Nevada marriage license. And in fact they don’t recognize one. They generally recognize *marriages* which occurred in another state, but they don’t *have to* recognize those either, particularly if they violate public policy and the public policy is not unconstitutionally discriminatory.

  6. “I should also say that I don’t see much inconsistency in having different ages for marriage and for abortion. “If you want to get married, fine, but wait two years” may be a reasonable position for the law to take; whatever one might say about abortion rights or about parental consent laws, “wait two years to get that abortion” is not, biologically speaking, an option.”

    The inconsistency is that abortion, as acknowledged even by the Supreme Court, destroys a potential life – an irreversible result – and New Jersey legislators are suggesting that a girl who isn’t mature enough to get married (and who was immature enough to get knocked up in the first place) is entrusted with deciding whether to destroy a living member of the human race.

  7. It may well be that, in today’s society, marriage (which will generally involve sex) when you’re too young to understand the risks is more dangerous than unmarried sex when you’re too young to understand the risks.
    >>

    Sex itself is no big deal but marriage is? Tell that to feminists and the rest of society when they’re arguing about most other topics.

    >>
    “If you want to get married, fine, but wait two years” may be a reasonable position for the law to take;
    >>

    Agreed, can’t tell you how surreal it was to see every other article about SSM or the latest socjus cause du jour act like there was some sense of urgency and it has to be passed now now NOW.

    >>
    “wait two years to get that abortion” is not, biologically speaking, an option.
    >>

    Barring advances in reproductive and life extension tech you only have a set number of years to enjoy or resent married life. You’re not getting those back if some legislature decides to interfere.

  8. >
    since the law, as I read it, only controls whether the state recognizes a marriage?it doesn’t preclude religious marriage ceremonies.
    >>

    Intriguing point, nothing prevents SSM advocates from getting under a private organization that considers them married or even just considering themselves married. As long as everybody can get a civil union thats what matters, not a government stamp of approval. I seem to remember a post by Ilya ignorantly ranting about how universal civil unions weren’t enough so you should inform him of your new insights.

    >>
    But I think the government can rightly protect under-16-year-olds against the consequences of sex and of marriage in this situation, notwithstanding anyone’s religious objections.
    >>

    But like you said you’re not really protecting them against sex are you? The agnostic Jessica can and will continue to sleep with the entire football team but at least we prevented bible thumping Prudence from consummating her relationship with her sweetheart in a way Christian fundamentalists would approve of. She can still effectively have sex of course but just not in a way they’ll like.

  9. In addition to the concerns surrounding forced or arranged marriages of minors (one or both of the parties), marriage often conveys rights and obligations on the parties beyond those involved in having sex; property ownership and transfers, indebtedness, inheritance, etc., so some additional protection is warranted.

    If we are to draw a line in order to protect minors from predators and/or (in someone’s opinion) insufficiently protective parents then requiring a judge’s review of a marriage involving 16 and 17 year olds and banning marriage outright for those under 16 seems about right to me.

  10. Some statutory rape laws also have exceptions for when both parties are minors or close enough in age, so really that’s already allowed, at least in jurisdictions with such exceptions.

  11. What’s the big risk of getting married when you’re 16 or 17? Particularly in New Jersey where you apparently can get an annulment of any such marriage which isn’t consummated after turning 18.

    Isn’t marriage a fundamental right? If so, I don’t see how a state is going to overcome strict scrutiny if the marriage age is higher than the age of consent for sex. Even if they can come up with a compelling interest, there’s almost certainly a way to more narrowly tailor the law to serve that compelling interest.

    If a couple wants to have kids, they should be allowed to get legally married.

    1. NJ annulments.

      This section doesn’t mention any provisions for the underage spouse to obtain alimony or any financial support in the event the marriage is annulled. Child brides whose education was interrupted need financial support.

      There is a potential for harm. Suppose the child bride was pressured to marry at 16. She gets pregnant, drops out of school to care for the child, but realizes she doesn’t want to be married at 18. At least with divorce, the system deals with issues like custody and the now financially vulnerable woman can request alimony. But, unless there is a provision elsewhere in the code, the now 18 year woman can get out of the marriage, but is totally on her own.

      In quite a few cases, her parents aren’t likely to support her in this. So, she’s now a mother of an infant or small child, uneducated and with no finacial resources. I’d consider this a big risk for her.

      1. The risk you describe is the risk of becoming a teen mother, which is the same risk whether you allow the teen to be legally married or not. The annulment wouldn’t (I assume) allow the teen to obtain alimony, but she’d still be entitled to child support. The annulment would put her in the same position as she’d be in if the marriage was void in the first place. If she wanted alimony, then she would want a divorce, not an annulment. In that case the fact that the marriage was legal would help her. The marriage might also help her to obtain child support, as she wouldn’t have to prove paternity if the father wouldn’t voluntarily acknowledge it.

        The problem you’re referring to is a very narrow one, and could easily be solved with a much more narrowly tailored law than banning 16-year-olds from marrying. You could allow teens who are impregnated at 16 or 17 collect palimony under circumstances like this, for instance.

        1. I need to correct myself on alimony. NJ courts *can* award alimony in an annulment proceeding: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2…..14/42_.PDF This only strengthens my argument. Allowing the teen to insist on being married before having kids helps protect her. If you’re going to give her the ability to consent to sex, you should give her the ability to insist on getting that ring and lifetime commitment first.

        2. I agree it can be remedied in other ways that prohibiting marriage. My view is that it’s something that needs to be remedied. I have nothing against allowing teens impregnated by an adult to receive palimony. In fact, I think it would likely be a good thing given how some families react.

          Whether teen marriages are permitted or not, it would certainly be better for a girl pregnant by an adult to be given palimony in the event she does not want to marry the adult who impregnated her than for her to fell forced to marry in order to have financial support during such a vulnerable time. (Technically her parents still need to support her, but they might push for the marriage.)

          Back to the risk associated with marriage: While you may see the risk of becoming a unmarried teen mother and a married one as the same, it isn’t entirely so. Often, while the teen remains unmarried her parents have some obligation to support her. That goes away when she marries. Unless their obligation resurrects when she divorces or her marriage is annulled, she may now be on her own. That’s a risk for the girl that does not exist if she does not marry. (Admittedly, her parents may be stingy, but legally they do have some obligation provided she does not marry.)

          Thanks for finding that NJ will award alimony in the case of the annulment. I think that should be routine for teens who are married to adults.

  12. Just a bunch of science deniers.
    Nowhere in any of this is consideration of the biological fact that age is not an appropriate designator of marriage readiness. Females reach breeding age at different ages; that should be the determinate factor in their ability to marry, if you accept the necessity of marriage for breeding.
    Of course, the government has no justification for the state licensing marriage, or any other religious institution. The basic reason governments got their noses into marriage is that they were to lazy to give out tax advantages for breeding alone, and used ‘married as a short cut. Times have changed, and the government needs to get out of the marriage business. First amendment, Jefferson’s letter, whatever.

    1. Most human females “reach breeding age” at 12 or 13. The determining factor in whether I let my daughter marry is if she is capable of living on her own and holding down a job. Maybe in the year 1400 where you are from, that was 12 or 13. In today’s society it’s well north of that. 16, maybe, for some women. But only a minority of 16 year olds are ready to leave the nest. Buy college age, definitely.

      1. Being “capable of living on her own and holding down a job” is a kind of an odd requirement for entering into a marriage i.e., an arrangement you vow to join your life and fate to someone else “from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”

        Capable of knowing what all that means… now, that seems more like it. OTOH, it’s hard to say that development level is older now than in times past.

  13. NJ annulments.

    This section doesn’t mention any provisions for the underage spouse to obtain alimony or any financial support in the event the marriage is annulled. Child brides whose education was interrupted need financial support.

  14. By states recognize other states marriage. So if the young couple flees to PA and gets married with parental consent, they can do so. Or Vegas. This law seems more like a tax on poor young people who decide to make it legal, without the money to head to some other state.

    Now I will hear Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run” in my head all day.
    “Oh, baby this town rips the bones from your back
    It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
    We gotta get out while we’re young”

  15. The inconsistency between the age to get an abortion and the age for marriage is that it removes the option of getting married and keeping the baby. The young lady has to choose between abortion or being a single parent.

    1. Craig,
      You left out two other options: she could put the baby up for adoption. The father could chose to raise the baby and assume the day to day responsibilities of single parent. This first option is pretty common. The second is less common, but happens.

      Not permitting the underage girl from marrying does remove the option of being married to the baby’s father or someone else. If does not remove the option of having the father or some other attached male supporting the baby, being involved in the baby’s life or being emotionally attached to the baby. Marriage encourages this role for the father but may not guarantee much involvement on his part.

    2. Yeah, the 17 year old delinquent boy probably has great health insurance…probably better than my Obamacare policy anyway.

  16. The state should just get out of the marriage business all together.

    States could have the power to set age of majority standards but those should be uniform. Example is 18 years old for military service, marriage, drinking, smoking, contracts.

    The states would not be banning anything just setting the age in which kids become adults and can enter into their own legal contracts. Under the age of majority, parents would need to give permission.

    1. Please name 10% of the thousands of state and federal laws and regulations attached to the civil institution of marriage and maybe I’ll take you seriously (Minnesota has 514 alone)

      1. That’s never stopped the courts before #LoveWins

      2. “Der’s just too many lawz to change it, derp”.

  17. First: what religion are we talking about? Is it a secret, like the name of a (claimed) rape victim? Why the hush-hush?

    Second: ‘ “wait two years to get that abortion” is not, biologically speaking, an option.’

    Straw man. This issue obviously does not turn on a two year wait. It’s the ability to make a mature decision – a decision that will affect you for the rest of your life, never mind the effect on the fetus. When I see a disingenuous rhetorical device like this one included in an argument, I see no reason why I should just subtract it out and grant the rest full respect.

    1. Well said.

  18. I don’t see how the rights of a minor child are not protected enough given that almost every state law requires the couple to be at least 16 years of age, requires consent of the parents (could get messy for divorced parents but courts can deal with that), and uses trial courts as gatekeepers to make sure the stereotype scenario of “creepy old guy taking advantage of young women” does not occur.

    These marriages are rare. Some states do not track it but fair numbers suggest it is around 500 couples a year. Why is this even a national issue? Well, it is because a certain segment of our atheist society hates religion and it was decided this was 1) easy low hanging fruit for fundraising and 2) another great way to fire up the manufactured outrage machine.

    My analysis might change if every state did not recognize no-fault divorce. It is easier to get our of a marriage these days then a business contract. If, in theory, a 16 year old gets married and later regrets it at 18 they can split with little consequence. Even if there was a child the same machinery is going to apply if the woman was pregnant before 18 or after marriage. Men have no “veto” power to stop an abortion and child custody is determined the same regardless of marital status.

    This is just bald faced bigotry by anti-religion nazis. That is basically it. There is no non-discriminatory basis in it that would support the change in public policy and reminds me of the facts in Loving v. Virginia.

  19. I still see a constitutional argument here. The 1970s privacy cases found it unconstitutional that they could have sex but not use contraceptives. So why isn’t it equally unconstitutional that they can have sex but not get married? Marriage is as much a fundamental right under the court’s precedents as contraceptives. Since we have precedent for “can’t do one without the other” constitutional decisions it seems to me one could decide a plausible legal challenge built on it.

    Indeed, it seems to me that Obergefell v. Hodges makes state restrictions on marriage subject to more scrutiny than before, and makes constitutional challenges to new restrictions more plausible. Obergefell held, arguably, that it hurts people’s dignity to put people in a state where they are permitted to have sex without being permitted to marry, and hence an arguable extension is that if it’s legal for people to have sex, they must be permitted to marry if they want.

    There is an arguable dignity issue here – from the point of view of a person of conservative mores, religious or otherwise, forbidding people from having a relationship they and the state regard as legitimate and dignified stigmatizes them, attacking their dignity and their legitimacy.

    It seems to me that this argument is at least plausible.

  20. (Cont)

    One has to remember that a couple of decades ago gay people were portrayed as pedophiles – preying on children. When repeals of sodomy laws were discussed in legislatures from the 1970s through 1990s, people used to come out in droves saying saying they needed these laws to keep their children from being preyed on.

    So the tables have turned, things have come full circle, and the exact opposite is occurring. Today it is the religious conservatives, who believe there shouldn’t be sex outside of marriage (and people shouldn’t have to wait to long for both), who are now being portrayed as nothing but pedophiles.

    In both cases there are real pedophiles but plenty of people who aren’t. I think the association with pedophilia here too is going far beyond its actual occurrence, and the pedophile libel is being used to tarnish a whole group by sheer association.

    Why, then, isn’t what’s sauce for the goose sauce for the gander? Why doesn’t the constitution entitle them to the same relief?

  21. Christie is such a nut but I thank God his religion allows betting on sports!

  22. This is what you get when you let Democrats redefine morality — idiots and YOUR biases make even less sense than those of religious traditions.

    Stupid AND hypocritical — what a combination!

  23. There is a lot of sociological evidence that kids benefit when born to married parents, even if it was a shotgun wedding, and even if the marriage only lasts a few years. (I sometimes snark that my parents’ short-lived, youthful marriage is the reason I’m a lawyer and not a stripper.)

    When a young woman gets pregnant, the best choice is often* to get married. Those unions do have a high rate of divorce, but it’s not irrational for people to think that trying and failing is better than not trying at all.

    From a social conservative perspective, it’s weird to suggest that someone is old enough for sex but not old enough for marriage: as sex is what produces babies, those who aren’t ready to make a lifelong commitment might not be nearly as ready for sex as they think they are. Not sure if that’s an argument for raising the age of consent or allowing minor marriages (with parental consent and/or judicial oversight), but historically, sex and marriage have been much more closely intertwined than they are now.

    *obviously, the reverse is true when one party is controlling, abusive, or much older.

    1. Ironically, the best argument against teenage marriages with their associated high risk of divorce is a religious one. If you believe that what God has put together, no man may tear asunder, and that remarriage after a secular divorce is almost always impermissible, then “try to make it work for the sake of the kid, and move on if it doesn’t work out” ceases to be a good life plan.

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