The Utah House has passed a bill that would raise the state's legal marriage age to 16 in most cases.

Rep. Carl Saunders, R-Ogden, sponsored the bill, which would ban marriages for children under the age of 16, except in rare cases where a judge deems the marriage is voluntary and would be beneficial for 15-year-olds. State law now prohibits marriages for children as young as 14 years.The proposal got wide-ranging support, passing 50-19 Tuesday, but it did receive some opposition, mostly from rural conservatives.

Rep. Bill Wright, R-Elberta, said he feared the measure would lead to more unwed 14-year-old parents.

"I think you legitimize illegitimacy, and you give young men or others the right to be totally irresponsible," Wright said.

Saunders said that if the Senate passes the measure and it is signed by the governor, Utah would be the 31st state to impose a minimum marriage age of 16.

Although it was not brought up during the House debate, the change would also address one of a the common abuses in polygamous marriages, which were scrutinized last year due to a high-profile criminal case.