Sen. John Kennedy (left) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan in the state Senate on March 13, 2019. Kennedy supported a bill raising Georgia's marriage age from 16 to 17 on Thursday, March 28, 2019. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

Georgia Senate votes to end child marriages under age 17

A bill raising Georgia's marriage age from 16 to 17 passed the state Senate on Wednesday, putting it one vote away from final approval.

The Senate voted 51-0 to approve House Bill 228, which aims to protect children from domestic violence, high divorce rates, child abuse and human trafficking, said state Sen. John F. Kennedy.

“Most children were married to adult spouses, many of whom were significantly older than the child bride,” said Kennedy, a Republican from Macon. “This also puts consistent with a national movement to end child marriages.”

Most states, including Georgia, currently allow 16-year-olds to marry if they have permission from their parents.

The bill prevents 17-year-olds from marrying partners more than four years older than them, and a judge would have to free them from parental control.

“This will help law enforcement and prosecutors go after child sex trafficking,” said state Sen. Zahra Karinshak, a Democrat from Duluth. “This bill will protect vulnerable children.”

The amended legislation now returns to the state House for a final vote. The House passed an earlier version of the bill 158-13.

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