Republicans Support Child Marriage


January 29, 2024

Several House Republicans voiced their support for child marriage in South Dakota today as they killed Rep. Kadyn Wittman’s bipartisan bill to raise the minimum age to marry to 18. Rep. Wittman thanks the Republicans and Democrats who signed onto her legislation and spoke in support of it.

According to the South Dakota Department of Health, 838 minors got married in the state between 2000 and 2020. 81% of those marriages were young girls who wed adult men.

Representatives Will Mortenson, Rebecca Reimer, Jon Hansen and Gary Cammack made several comments about why child marriage is “good”. They cited pregnancy and terminal illness as reasons for children to get married. They also said the guardrails of parental rights is enough to allow child marriage.

While there may be exceptional cases where individuals under 18 may wish to marry, it is essential to prioritize the overall well-being and best interests of minors. In cases of pregnancy or other extenuating circumstances, the default should be to protect minors from the potential harms associated with early marriage. Additionally, resources should be provided to support young couples facing challenges related to pregnancy without resorting to early marriage as the solution.

Another argument that was utilized by opponents is that marriage is a good thing and should be pursued in order to maintain the nuclear family. Not only is this a short-sighted opinion on underage marriage, it is also insulting to families who do not fit into the “traditional” family structure.

“As someone who has tirelessly championed the protection of South Dakota’s children, I am deeply disappointed with the committee’s decision to uphold child marriage,” said Rep. Wittman. “Every child deserves the opportunity to grow, learn and thrive without the burden of early matrimony. Raising the age of marriage to 18 is not just a matter of policy, it is a fundamental step in safe guarding the well-being and future of South Dakota’s kids. 16-year-olds are children who should not be getting married and it is our job as legislators to put guardrails in place to protect our kids.”

Rep. Wittman will continue to introduce this bill until the state ends child marriage.

For questions, you can contact the SDDP Executive Director Dan Ahlers at or contact the state party office by phone at 605-271-5405 or 605-940-3071.

Paid for by the South Dakota Democratic Party |