Laura Puryear Talks to WRAL News About Bill to End Child Marriage in North Carolina

March 29, 2021

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In North Carolina, someone as young as 14 years old is able to get married due to a provision in the state’s marriage statute. McGuireWoods Consulting vice president, Laura Puryear, is working pro bono with the Tahirih Justice Center and the International Center for Research on Women to pass legislation to raise the marriage age to 18. She recently spoke with WRAL News: On the Record on the effort to change the law.

“House Bill 41 and Senate Bill 35 are companion bills that set the marriage age at 18 with no exceptions,” Puryear said. “The bills were filed not long after the North Carolina General Assembly session began so we could start educating members and clear up any concerns.”

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) recently completed an extensive analysis on child marriage in the state, and the data served as an impetus for the legislation. The study looked at 50 counties and found there were 3,949 applications involving 4,218 minors. The research found that in the overwhelming majority of these marriages where one of the parties is below the age of 18 that the younger party is female.

“There was an effort to raise the age 20 years ago. Back then the marriage age was 13 and they were only able to get it moved up to one year to 14 years old,” Puryear said. “This is no fault of any legislators that are currently in office, they just didn’t know the issue existed until we had the data. This isn’t something that people go out and celebrate. It’s something children are forced into and it’s not widely talked about.”

The study on child marriage in North Carolina took about a year to complete, with ICRW working with counties who all store data in different ways. The issue now has bipartisan support in the NC General Assembly.

“The House bill should move through the Families, Planning and Aging Policy Committee in the next couple of weeks, then it will go onto the Rules Committee and then over to the Senate,” Puryear said.