LEGISLATIVE WATCH WYOMING: Governor Signs Law Setting Minimum Age to Marry
Individuals must be at least 18 years old, except in a few cases, to get marriage license
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Feb 24, 2023
By Shen Wu Tan
Special to the Wyoming Truth
Gov. Mark Gordon on Thursday signed a law that sets a minimum age limit for marriages in Wyoming.
The governor green-lighted House Enrolled Act 44, also known as House Bill 7 or “Underage marriage-amendments,” which requires that individuals getting married must be at least 18 years old (with few exceptions) and prohibits marriages for anyone under the age of 16.
The law states that all marriages involving an individual who is 16 or 17 years old are “prohibited and voidable” unless a judge in the state approves the marriage and allows the county clerk to issue a license. In addition, the legislation would void all marriages involving anyone under age 16, and prohibit any person certified to wed couples in Wyoming from performing a marriage ceremony if either individual is under age 16.
The governor’s office did not provide further comments about the new legislation to the Wyoming Truth.
If either person is 16 or 17 years old, a marriage license cannot be issued without verbal or written consent of a parent, guardian or other individual who takes care of the 16- or 17-year-old. At least one witness must provide testimony to prove written consent. A county clerk can refuse to issue a license if either person is 16 or 17 years old and a parent or guardian has not given consent.
For marriages involving a 16 or 17-year-old, the parents or guardians can ask any judge in the county of residence for an order that authorizes the marriage and orders for the issuance of a marriage license.
Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne), the sponsor of the legislation, previously told a House committee, “What I’ve tried to do in this bill before you, in House Bill 7, is to meet those already existing carve-outs in Wyoming law that do allow 16 or 17 year olds the possibility to get married with an actual district court or circuit court judge to allow that….Just setting an age in our statute I think is extremely important to stop child marriage.”
Zwonitzer and some of the co-sponsors of the bill did not offer comments to the Wyoming Truth regarding the new act.
The law applies to all marriages on and after the act goes into effect. The act also allows two people who are under age 18, but are at least 16 years old, to marry without consent from parents or anyone else and approval from a judge if they meet the requirements for right to contract or have received a declaration of independence.
Last year, there were 4,207 marriages licensed in Wyoming, of which 16 included one spouse under the age of 18, according to provisional figures provided to the Wyoming Truth by Guy Beaudoin, deputy state registrar for the Wyoming Department of Health’s Vital Statistics Services.
Over the last 11 years, an average of around 4,200 marriage licenses were issued in the state annually. An average of 20 marriages each year involved a spouse under 18, Beaudoin informed the House revenue committee in January.