Bill Banning Child Marriage Passes PA House Committee

State Rep. Perry Warren meets with Fraidy Reiss of Unchained At Last to film a documentary in 2017.

A bill removing all exceptions for child marriage in Pennsylvania passed committee in the state House Tuesday, according to State Rep. Perry Warren.

Handled in the House Judiciary Committee, Warren says H.B. 360 would make it completely illegal to marry a minor.

“This bill is about child protection. Studies have shown that a child often does not have the capacity to make a decision to marry before 18, and a child under 18 does not have the legal rights of an adult,” Warren said.

An Unchained at Last protest in Philadelphia in April 2018. Photo credit: Charlotte Reese

Child marriage is more common in the United States than many people believe. From 2000 to 2010, more than 167,000 children married adults older than themselves. Of those children, a vast majority were young girls. Some were as young as 12 years old.

“When I speak about this bill,” Warren said, “invariably someone asks, ‘Child marriage – is that a thing?’ It is, and it is time to set the age at 18 to protect children in Pennsylvania.”

Some groups are trying to raise awareness for the troubling practice of child marriage. In 2017, Warren met with Fraidy Reiss. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Unchained At Last, a group dedicated to banning child marriage throughout the nation.

Unchained At Last celebrated the passage of similar laws in Delaware and New Jersey last year. In 2018, the group premiered Knots: A Forced Marriage Story, a documentary taking a look into child marriage.

“I’m really grateful I’ve been able to be a small part of it,” Reiss said in 2017. “It’s surprising to me that there has been pushback from some legislators in state after state.”

Warren introduced similar legislation in 2017, but it never reached Governor Wolf’s desk.