Thanks to State Senator and candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Jill Vogel, adolescent children in Virginia who previously had no legal protection against coerced marriages, usually as a result of a pregnancy, are now protected by State law. Senator Vogel pushed through legislation making it illegal for children to get married, except in cases where sixteen and seventeen year olds had been legally emancipated.
It is surprising that such a law was just passed in 2016. As recently as 2015, adolescent children have been getting married in Virginia. Often times, these marriages were between adolescent girls and men over the age of twenty-one.
According to the law in Virginia up until last Friday, it was legal for children under the age of 18 to get married, and worse: 12 or 13-year-old girls could become wed if they were pregnant and gained parental consent. Unthinkable.
And shockingly, people were actually utilising the law. Figures show that between 2004 and 2013, 4,500 children under 18 were married, and of those 200 were younger than 15-years-old. 90% of those marrying underage were girls, and in most cases they married men age 21 or older. –Cosmopolitan
Amazing – and not just little bit disgusting.
However, there are those who make the argument that preventing adolescent marriages is an infringement of civil liberties and that the State should not be deciding who can and cannot get married on the arbitrary basis of age, so long as there is “consent” from both the adolescent and their parents. This argument raises a number of issues regarding age and the arbitrary application of rights and privileges.
Should the State have the authority to determine when a citizen should have the right to drink, drive, or get married. Upon what objective principles do we justify letting children drive at 16, but not get married, smoke cigarettes, or serve in the military until the age of 18? What possible reason could the State have to allow men and women to serve in the military at 18, but not legally purchase alcohol until the age of 21?
This topic fascinates me because it pits pragmatic common sense against ideological or philosophical principles and demonstrates the absurdity of approaching government ideologically. There must be some arbitrary standards set by local, state, and federal governments. This is terribly troubling to those of us who try to make principled and objective political arguments that do not appeal to arbitrary rationalizations; but who in their right mind thinks a 13 year old girl should be allowed to get married to a 36 year old predator, even with her and her parents’ consent?
Senator Vogel’s law serves to protect thousands of girls from being coerced into marriages and nightmare situations that girls, at the ages of 13, 14, or 15 could not possibly appreciate or understand at such a young age. Such protections are an application of common sense and serve as a reminder that in the real world, absolutes and ideals regarding freedom cannot be liberally applied. This is yet another reason why I had to leave the Libertarian Party. Idealism, with regard to liberty, is a bulwark against common sense legislation and cultural stability. This is also a great annoyance to me, since inevitably in a Republic we are constantly drawing arbitrary lines which restrict our absolute liberty; and who is to say where those lines are to be drawn, but the majority?
For those who find themselves trapped by idealism and political absolutism, this issue presents what I believe to be an irreconcilable challenge to the idea of an objective and ideologically pure political philosophy. There is simply too great a need for common sense in government.