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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: March 6, 2017 08:29 AM
From: Representative Perry S. Warren
To: All House members
Subject: Age Restriction for Marriage Licenses
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to change the minimum age at which marriage licenses are issued to be 18 years of age with no exceptions.

Currently, most states set 18 as the minimum marriage age with exceptions to allow children younger than 18 to marry, usually through parental consent and/or judicial approval. In fact, laws in 27 states do not even specify an age below which a child cannot marry. Remarkably, Pennsylvania is one of these states. Marriage license data from 2000 to 2010, reveals that in 38 states, more than 167,000 children were married – almost all of them girls, some as young as 12 – to men 18 or older. Further, early marriages are linked to a number of consequences such as negative effects on health and education, and an increased vulnerability to domestic violence. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that children under the age of 18 – because of their limited legal rights – are limited in their ability to defend themselves against coercion or exploitation into forced marriage.

Under existing Pennsylvania law, a marriage license may be issued to an applicant under the age of 16 if the court decides it is in the best interest of the applicant. A marriage license may also be issued in cases where an applicant is over the age of 16 and under the age of 18 if the consent of a parent or guardian with custody of the child is personally given before the person issuing the license, or consent is certified in writing with the signature of two adult witnesses and is acknowledged before an officer authorized by law to make acknowledgements.

My bill would repeal these exceptions and raise the minimum age at which a marriage license may be issued to 18 years of age. As marriage before the age of 18 can be coercive or exploitative and is highly likely to result in short- and long-term harm to a child, undermining his or her education, health, and economic opportunities and increasing the risk of experiencing violence, it is time to protect Pennsylvania’s children and update the minimum marriage age. I hope you will join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation.

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Introduced as HB1038