MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Two proposed bills could change what lawmakers are calling a “loophole” in the marriage law. The state of South Carolina allows children to get married under certain circumstances.
The law states a marriage license may be issued to an unmarried female and male under the age of eighteen if such female is pregnant or has borne a child.
According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s marriage license data, from 2000 to 2015 there were over 5,200 children married in South Carolina. Some were as young as 12-years-old and almost all of them were married to adult men.
A bill, pre-filed by Rep. Beth Berstein, Rep. Shannon Erickson, and Rep. Neal Collins would repeal the current state law that allows a pregnant person under the age of 16 to get married.
A similar bill, pre-filed by Representative Mandy Powers Norrell, would amend the state law that allows certain children under 16 can marry.
Activists argue that these bills are not enough to put an end to child marriages, and say many marriages are the result of rape or child sex abuse.
"The pregnancy exception is extremely problematic, in fact, only a handful of states still allow a pregnancy except for a reason because it’s so dangerous and problematic. It’s been used to cover up rape, to force girls to marry their rapist. I’m happy that legislators in South Carolina want to eliminate the exception but first of all, let’s eliminate it for all children not only under the age of 16-years-old,” said Founder and Executive Director of Unchained At Last, Fraidy Reiss.