Harrisburg, April 29, 2020 – Senator John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia) announced that his Ending Child Marriage bill’s House version passed through the full Senate and the House today. The House of Representatives companion bill (HB-360 – Rep. Topper/Rep. Warren) passed unanimously with a vote of 50-0 in the Senate and then unanimously in the House 202-0. The bill will now go to Governor Wolf’s desk for his signature.
“This bill closes all of the loopholes used to marry children,” Sabatina said. “I’m happy this bill moved so quickly through the House and is getting to Governor Wolf’s desk for his signature.”
Existing Pennsylvania law allows for parental consent along with judicial approval for a child under 16 to be married. Only parental consent is 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 is one of 18 states that does not specify a minimum age at which a person can be married,” said Sabatina, who began his efforts on this legislation two years ago.
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 thanked Rep. Topper and Rep. Warren, as well as Senator Judy Schwank, along with his colleagues in the Senate and House on this important bipartisan effort.
Governor Wolf is expected to sign this legislation.