North Carolina is no longer “the bottom of the barrel of states,” said Drew Reisinger of the Buncombe County Register of Deeds office but we are still putting “a lot of children in harm’s way.” Why? Until August of 2021, North Carolina law permitted pregnant 14-year-old girls to marry if a judge allowed it. On August 26, 2021, Gov. Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 35 which raised the minimum age to marry to 16-years of age and outlawed the marriage of pregnant 14- and 15-year-olds, which was previously allowed, and bans 16- and 17-year-olds from marrying someone four years their senior.
North Carolina has been a haven for older men who have preyed on and impregnated children and their illicit unions were given a stamp of approval by the state of North Carolina. The unions were illegal since statutory rape laws prohibit sex with a child under 16. So when these girls who could not legally consent to sex entered the clerk’s office in their pregnant condition, for legal validation of the evident rape, the State of North Carolina acquiesced. Of the 8,800 minors listed on marriage licenses from 2000 -2015, 93% involved a marriage between a minor and an adult, and 2/3 of the marriage applications in Buncombe County in 2020 involving a minor and an adult originated from people who lived outside of North Carolina
Sen. Vickie Sawyer, a Davidson County Republican had sponsored a bill that would have raised the age to 18. But that bill failed as the older members of the Senate knew family and friends who had been married as a child and the marriage had been deemed a success. Unchained at Last and the International Center for Research on Women are among groups pushing states to raise the marriage age to 18 with no exceptions. Only six states have reached that standard.