Governor John Carney hosted a ceremonial signing of the legislation Thursday at Legislative Hall in Dover, weeks after the measure was given final approval in the General Assembly.
State Representative Kim Williams, D- 19th, said she introduced the bill after learning about connections between child marriage and human trafficking.
“It’s 2018. Knowing that children could marry children or children could marry adults was mind-blowing,” Williams said.
Senator Anthony Delcollo, R- 7th, said child marriage created an exception for what would otherwise be considered statutory rape.
“We ended what is an awful, anachronistic and unacceptable practice,” Delcollo said.
The Founder and Executive Director of Unchained At Last, Fraidy Reiss, said it was a “wonderful day for women and girls in Delaware and across the United States.”
Reiss said she was forced into a marriage at age 19 with a man who turned out to be abusive. Unchained At Last is trying to get all 50 states to ban child marriages. The group says people who marry before age 18, especially girls and young women, are more likely to have their education curtailed, face poverty, develop health and psychiatric problems, or be abused.
“Almost every aspect of your life is impacted very negatively,” Reiss said.
Legislative sponsors said more than 200 teens as young as 14 have gotten married in Delaware in recent years, but have had to wait until age 18 to do routine things like vote, get a tattoo or a body piercing, or even use a tanning bed.
“All they have to do is wait until 18 and they can have all the legal avenues they need,” Williams said.