Harrisburg, April 20, 2020 − Senator John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia) was pleased to announce a major update on his Ending Child Marriage bill (SB-81). The House of Representatives companion bill (HB-360 – Rep. Topper/Rep. Warren) unanimously passed through the Senate Judiciary committee.
“This bill closes all loopholes people use to marry children,” Sabatina said. “This law shows that we care about our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.”
Current Pennsylvania law allows for parental consent and judicial approval for a child under 16 to be married. Only parental consent is required for children 16-18 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 is one of 18 states that does not specify a minimum age at which a person can be married,” Sabatina said.
According to Unchained at Last, an organization that works to end child marriages, 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.
Due to a COVID-19-related amendment, the bill will have go back to the House for a vote. It is expected to be approved.
Senator Sabatina thanked Rep. Topper and Rep. Warren, his fellow members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as his colleagues in the full Senate and House on this bipartisan effort.