Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:
Question: I was recently hanging out with a friend, having a beer at one of our local brew pubs, and our discussion focused on the topic of bad laws. I brought up the topic of blue laws where alcohol was not allowed to be sold on Sundays as well as retail stores being closed. Thankfully, that has been changed. My friend who is from North Carolina suggested that one of the bad laws that is currently allowed in our state is that 14-year-olds are allowed to marry. That sounds like something that should have been repealed before the blue laws. What’s the deal with that law? You can’t drive, or vote, or consume alcoholic beverages and you can get married? I’m not aware of many 14-year-olds who are capable of making a good decision in that area, and it seems like it’s a setup for some form of abuse. Are there any limitations or restrictions? Are we the only state that still allows this? What’s keeping it from being repealed?
My answer: When I was 14, I was trying to decide if the time had come to stop putting baseball cards on my bike spokes to make it sound like a motorcycle. In other words, probably not ready for marriage.
Real answer: North Carolina does indeed, unfortunately, lead the nation in this regard.
“Shockingly, 14-year-olds can still get married in North Carolina,” said Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger, who has been working on this issue. “It’s the lowest marriage age set by statute in the country (tied with Alaska).”
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He states flatly that our current law “puts children in harm’s way.”
“Two years ago, I partnered with the International Center for Research on Women, who helped me collect marriage data from across the state,” Reisinger said. “We found 3,949 marriage license applications involving over 4,000 minors from 2000-2019, which puts North Carolina in the top five states with the highest rate of child marriage.”
Changes in the law are in the works and moving through the General Assembly this year.
“The North Carolina Senate just passed a bill that would raise the marriage age to 16, while putting in place a four-year age gap maximum for any applicant that is a minor,” Reisinger said. “So 49-year-olds would no longer be able to marry teenagers.”
He’s not exaggerating there. As Reisinger wrote in his column last September, “Late last year, a 49-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl from Kentucky came into my office to request a marriage license,” as they had read that North Carolina had “the loosest laws in the South for child marriage.”
This is a tragically serious issue.
“Studies have shown that girls who get married before they become adults experience higher rates of domestic violence, food insecurity, and other negative health outcomes in their lifetime,” Reisinger wrote.
About the recent state house action, WRAL in Raleigh reported May 12, “Fourteen- and 15-year-olds would no longer be allowed to marry in North Carolina under a bill the state Senate unanimously adopted on Wednesday.”
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WRAL also cited the International Center for Research on Women study, noting that of those 4,000 minors applying for marriage licenses, “In 93 percent of the applications, an adult was marrying a minor. In almost three out of every five marriages, had the pair not been married, the relationship would be considered statutory rape, a felony.”
So yes, it seems like high time North Carolina change this law. The bill will have to go through the House now and get Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature.
“It’s unclear what the final bill out of the General Assembly will be this session, but we have bipartisan support in both chambers to get a law in place that will do a better job of protecting vulnerable children from potential future domestic violence,” Reisinger said.
Question: How much longer is the city of Asheville going to spend money to have a Young Transportation bus follow city buses? The original intent was to lessen the number of people sitting close together on a given route because of COVID. It seems like an idea whose time has passed. Proof would be the airline industry. Air travel is really coming back strongly, and this requires people to be in close quarters for a much longer period than a bus ride. Plus, in a bus you can open the windows. This makes no sense fiscally or environmentally.
My answer: If you ever want to have some fun on a plane, just turn to your seat mate and say, “Hey, you mind if I open the window and get some fresh air in here?”
Real answer: “Due to the pandemic and social distancing requirements in place, the city of Asheville continues to limit capacity on all buses to nine passengers and the driver,” city of Asheville spokeswoman Polly McDaniel said via email. “The city and ART understand how this has impacted riders who continue to face significant impact due to the requirement to limit the number of riders on each bus.”
McDaniel said the partnership with Young Transportation to provide additional service along high-ridership routes allows ART “to avoid suspending service to residents in the city and to ensure we continue operating all transit routes within the city’s service area.”
“As more Asheville and Buncombe County residents — including ART drivers — are vaccinated, we believe we will be able to return normal transit operations,” McDaniel said. “We also continue to monitor communication from Gov. Cooper’s office regarding easing restrictions and increasing mass gatherings indoors and outdoors. The city will change capacity on the buses when the governor’s mandate to ease restrictions becomes effective.”
This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or [email protected]