Eric Douglas Published

Child Marriage Bill Returns; Up For Senate Vote

A man in a suit with grey hair and wearing glasses speaks into a microphone on the West Virginia Senate floor.
Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, spoke in support of HB 3018 on the Senate floor on March 9, 2023.
Will Price/WV Legislative Photography

Less than 24 hours after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted down a bill to provide a minimum age for marriage in West Virginia, it was revived. 

Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, moved House Bill 3018 out of committee and put it back in front of the full Senate using a procedural vote. This bill makes the minimum age 18 to get married. 

The Senate voted on it a second time and moved it to third reading on Friday with the right to amend. 

In Senate remarks, Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, said he supported the bill. 

“What we have in this day, frequently, is called grooming,” he said. “You have men in their thirties or older who groom young girls, and the next thing you know some young girl has convinced her parents to let her get married. And it’s really close to duress. It’s an undue influence. Undue influence can set aside another contract, and it is actually grounds to set aside divorce, that may be grounds for annulment.”

As West Virginia law stands, there is no minimum age to marry. Children can marry as young as 16 in West Virginia, with parental consent. Anyone younger than that must get a judge’s waiver.

Sen. Mike Stuart, R-Kanawha, offered an alternative to 18 for discussion Friday. 

“My parents married at 16,” he said. “They are disgustingly in love that they can’t keep their hands off each other. And so I would ask this body to consider a more reasonable figure of 16. I support that figure. I think our counterparts will agree to 16. I think this is about a floor as opposed to a finite number. And I just ask you to consider that over the next 24 hours.” 

The bill was introduced in the House of Delegates by Del. Kayla Young, D-Kanawha. She told the committee Wednesday night that seven percent of marriages in the last decade included someone who was under 18. Young said more than 750 child marriages have been performed since 2000.