From the pine-covered Smokey Mountains to the fine white sand of the outer banks, North Carolina is a gem to behold. Its estimated 58 million annual visitors kick roughly $26 billion into the state’s bank account. While much of N.C.s tourist dollars come from campers and sun-worshippers, there’s yet another draw that appeals to adults wishing to take full legal possession of children as young as 14. Not by adoption mind you. They want to put a wedding ring on their juvenile finger and N.C., under current state law, allows them to.
N.C. is a regional hub for child-bride weddings. State lawmakers are trying their best to change the archaic ruling that allows this and they’re getting close, but only by way of compromise. The national average legal age for exchanging wedding vows is 18. The lawmakers are pushing to at least increase the legal requirements to age 16. Let a kid at least get through puberty.
While age 16 makes a wedding appear a bit less lecherously induced, there’s some fine print that’ll put the brakes on what can only be referred to as legalized pedophilia. As a protection for children between the ages of 16 -18 who may have been coerced, manipulated, or forced under threat to say “I do,” their wannabe spouse cannot exceed their age by more than four years. BAM!
The register of deeds in Buncombe County, Drew Reisinger, put it this way; “We will have moved the needle and made North Carolina no longer at the very bottom of the barrel of states.” But, “we’re still going to be putting a lot of children in harm’s way.”
Since Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina, all within a stone’s throw, raised the legal marriage age several years ago, this is where the majority of adults with kids in tow come from. Asheville being a prime tourist destination is generally their city of choice said, Reisinger.
Only one-third of marriage applications listing at least one member of a happy couple as under the age of 18 come from within the state. Reisinger referenced a recent couple who drove in from Kentucky. He was pushing 50 and his blushing bride was 17.
Before anyone starts shaking their finger at N.C., don’t. It’s only one of 13 states that have no problem with kids under I6 exchanging wedding vows with anyone of any age as long as one of them is an adult. Nine of those 13 have no minimum age requirement whatsoever. If a judge says it’s okay, it’s okay. If a judge rules against it, no problem. Go to a different county with a different judge.
Unchained at Last is a nonprofit organization that’s fighting for a national age requirement and age difference limit. Their goal is to end forced child marriages and they say it’s much more prevalent than people may think.
The International Center for Research on Women did some poking around in N.C. and found an estimated 8,800 marriage licenses involving minors between 2000-2015. As a better perspective, between 2000-2019, 93% of all marriage licenses were issued to old dudes marrying kids.
This should be of great concern, especially to any parent or legal guardian of a minor-aged daughter. Not only are young minds impressionable and easily led astray, but they also frighten easily and generally do as they are instructed if forced by threat. Since minors have yet to be issued any form of legal Identification it’s also a breeze for their soon-to-be legal ‘handler’ to change their first and maiden name on the initial application, Poof…They’ve vanished…