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After law school and military service, George C. Wallace embarked on a career as a judge and local politician.

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Nicholas Syrett does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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The recent outrage over Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore allegedly targeting teenage girls for sex has elicited reports that some evangelical churches actually encourage teenage girls to date older men. It seems unlikely that Moore was ever interested in marrying any of the women who have thus far accused him of unwanted sexual attention and assault.

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However, Moore is married to a woman 14 years his junior whom he first met when she was 15 and he was These conversations about older men dating and marrying young girls have left many Americans surprised. Child marriage has a long and vibrant history in the United States. While activists have long urged legislators to raise the age of consent to marriage — and continue to do so — with parental consent it remains possible for minors to marry in every single state.

Though some boys do marry, the vast majority of marrying minors are girls.

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This has been the pattern throughout U. Different minimum marriageable ages for girls and boys were common nationwide until the s. While marriage as a minor is ificantly less common today than it was in the early or midth century — two periods with particularly high rates — it is certainly not a thing of the past.

In the last 15 years, more thanminors have become legally wed in the United States, many marrying below the age of consent to sex in their states. Data from the U. Census show that the marriage of legal minors has always been more common in the South. Leigh Corfman claims Moore initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14 in Today southern states like Alabama, Kentucky and West Virginia have among the highest rates of minor marriage in the nation.

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They are also ed by Idaho and other rural states in the West. These states share high rates of poverty and are home to religious conservatives who often see marriage as the solution to teenage sex and premarital pregnancy. Some even condone marriage when it from statutory rape.

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Child marriage has long been portrayed as an issue in the developing world — especially in India and various nations in Africa and the Middle East. Americans are often surprised by its persistence right here at home.

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Many assume that it was a practice brought to the United States by immigrant populations, or one used in isolationist religious sects. Neither belief is borne out by the s. Even at the height of immigration to the United States in the s and s, U. In both cases, poor girls in rural states ed for the s.

Opposition to child marriage in the United States also has a long history, dating back to the middle of the 19th century. This means that with judicial or parental consent, children as young as 10, 11 and 12 have been married in the U. When exceptions are taken into consideration, 25 states actually do not have an absolute minimum marriageable age.

When activists have sought to eliminate those exceptions and ban marriage prior to age 18 outright, as they are attempting to do in about 10 states nationwide today, they have met with substantial pushback. Some religious conservatives worry that without access to marriage, pregnant girls might turn to abortion. Others simply place faith in the institution of marriage to establish a happy and financially secure household. This is despite the fact that studies have shown that marriage as a minor is much more likely to lead to divorce, to dropping out of high school, to spousal abuse and to mental and physical health problems.

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Only when Americans are able to have more honest conversations about what marriage really looks like — as opposed to some idealized image of marital perfection — are we likely to see the abolition of child marriage in the United States. Plymouth Contemporary — Plymouth, Devon.

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Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Women protest against child marriage in Albany, New York. Nicholas SyrettUniversity of Kansas.