Jun 4, 2009

Concerning Marriageable Age in NH

The new marriage law in NH includes the following:

457:4 Marriageable. No male below the age of 14 years and no female below the age of 13 years shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage that is entered into by one male and one female, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void. No male below the age of 18 and no female below the age of 18 shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage between persons of the same gender, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void.
This would appear to present conflicting rights. However, civil marriage is concerned with the rights of spouses and parents. A young man of 14 and young woman of 13 are capable of having a child, and their rights as parents of the child would be enforced by their marriage. Two women or two men cannot have a child on their own save through procedures that are available to legal adults, which are persons aged 18 or older. Marriageable age is set to the lowest possible age two persons can make the choice to establish a larger family.

This does not relate in any way to Age of Consent, which is establish in NH by the following laws (which I have abridged specifically to present my opinion; 632-A:2 & 3 includes other aspects of sexual assault, including incest, rape, and abuse of power):

632-A:2 Aggravated Felonious Sexual Assault. –
I. A person is guilty of the felony of aggravated felonious sexual assault if such person engages in sexual penetration with another person under any of the following circumstances:
(k) When, except as between legally married spouses, the victim is 13 years of age or older and under 18 years of age and the actor is in a position of authority over the victim and uses this authority to coerce the victim to submit.
(l) When the victim is less than 13 years of age.
II. A person is guilty of aggravated felonious sexual assault without penetration when he intentionally touches whether directly, through clothing, or otherwise, the genitalia of a person under the age of 13 under circumstances that can be reasonably construed as being for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.

632-A:3 Felonious Sexual Assault. – A person is guilty of a class B felony if such person:
II. Engages in sexual penetration with a person, other than his legal spouse, who is 13 years of age or older and under 16 years of age where the age difference between the actor and the other person is 4 years or more; or
III. Engages in sexual contact with a person other than his legal spouse who is under 13 years of age.

The penal code allows for law, often referencing “legal spouse” (which will include same-sex marriages in January 2010), and it does not make any distinction of the participating sexes.

I do not see any conflict between these two. Instead, I see marriageable age allowing for possible contingencies. Should teenaged homosexual couples be allowed to marry at a younger age? If at all possible, heterosexual teenage couples should not marry until age 18. Sure, sex comes before marriage, but a government has to allow for the legality of all ways of thinking, not just those of the dominant religious culture.

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