Massachusetts House Approves Budget Amendment To Outlaw Child Marriage

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By Colin Young
State House News Service

Tackling the second amalgamated amendment package of the second day of budget debate, representatives added about $27.26 million in new spending targeted towards public safety and the court system to the Massachusetts House’s fiscal year 2023 budget plan Tuesday afternoon.

In addition to the new spending, the amendment adopted on a 155-0 vote also outlaws child marriage in Massachusetts, an occurrence that lawmakers and advocates have been drawing attention to for years on Beacon Hill.

Current law allows anyone under the age of 18 to get married with parental consent, but lawmakers said that minors who marry cannot always access the legal and social services they would need to end a marriage. The Senate voted in 2019 to ban child marriages, but it did not emerge in the House.

“This consolidated amendment will prospectively end the practice of marrying young girls off here in Massachusetts and it will also provide relief to those minors currently in marriages by empowering them to seek annulments and divorce on their own,” state Representative Michael Seamus Day (D-Stoneham), House chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said. “The law must evolve with society, and today we take a significant step forward in that respect.”

State Representative Brad Jones (R-North Reading), the GOP minority leader, said Massachusetts would be the seventh state to ban child marriage.

The amendment, which dispensed with more than 120 amendments categorized as public safety and another 28 amendments labeled as judiciary, pumps up the amount dedicated towards local public safety projects and grant programs from $100,000 to $1,447,000.

That money is intended for things like the procurement of cardiac defibrillators in North Attleborough ($25,000), the purchase of a K-9 cruiser and related equipment in Sturbridge ($50,000), the purchase and installation of security cameras around the public safety building in Saugus ($60,000), the replacement of police patrol and rescue boat motors in Plymouth ($47,000), and the construction of a concession stand, equipment storage, and Americans-With-Disabilities-Act-compliant bathrooms at Shedd Park in Lowell ($50,000).

The House amendment similarly dedicates significant funding to the state’s fire departments. Instead of the $100,000 written into the underlying budget bill, the amendment would send $2,763,250 to fire departments around the state for things like roof repairs at firehouses in Taunton ($50,000), the restoration of Dedham’s 1953 fire engine ($35,000), and a fire breathing apparatus for Melrose ($60,000).

The amendment included an additional $17.27 million for Trial Court judge salaries, a roughly $300,000 increase for the operation of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and its justices’ salaries, and an extra $704,000 for Massachusetts Appeals Court justice salaries. State Representative Nick Boldyga (R-Southwick) tried unsuccessfully to strip the amendment bundle of the judicial pay raises. 


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