Harrisburg, May 8, 2020 – Senator John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia) is elated that his Ending Child Marriage bill has become law. Governor Wolf signed the House version of Sabatina’s bill, which is now Act 18 of 2020. The components of the law related to ending child marriage take effect immediately.
“This bill closes all of the loopholes used to marry children,” Sabatina said. “I thank Governor Wolf and my colleagues in the Senate and House for supporting this legislation that protects some of our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.”
Previous Pennsylvania law allowed for parental consent along with judicial approval for a child under 16 to be married. Only parental consent was required for children 16 or 17 years of age. However, these same minors are unable to sign binding contracts such as housing agreements, file for divorce, and in some cases are not yet old enough to drive.
“Pennsylvania was one of only 18 states that did not specify a minimum age at which a person could be married,” said Sabatina, who began his efforts on this legislation two years ago. “That ends now.”
According to Unchained at Last, an organization that works to end child marriage, children who are forced into marriage before the age of 18 face lifelong, devastating
consequences in terms of health, education, economic opportunities, and quality of life. Predominately young girls are affected by harmful child marriages, which are considered a “human rights abuse” by the U.S. Department of State. In 2014, it was estimated that more than 2,300 children aged 15 to 17 were married and living in Pennsylvania.
Senator Sabatina also thanked House sponsors Rep. Topper and Rep. Warren, as well as his fellow Senate co-prime sponsor Senator Judy Schwank, along with his colleagues in the Senate and House on this important bipartisan effort.