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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: June 20, 2018 10:42 AM
From: Senator John P. Sabatina, Jr. and Sen. Judith L. Schwank, Sen. Guy Reschenthaler
To: All Senate members
Subject: Legislation Ending Child Marriage in Pennsylvania
Soon, I plan to introduce legislation amending Title 23 (Domestic Relations) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statues, establishing 18 years of age as the minimum age at which marriage licenses shall be issued, with no exceptions. This bill will join initiatives across the country and acts as a companion to an identical bill in the Pennsylvania House, seeking to end child marriage in the Commonwealth.

The intent of this bill is to separate Pennsylvania from the likes of 26 other states that do not specify a minimum age for marriage, without exception, bringing our laws in line with neighboring states in the Northeast. According to one study, by Unchained at Last, an organization that works to end child marriage in America, it is estimated that there were nearly some quarter-million child marriages in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010. As of 2014, an estimated 2,323 children age 15 to 17 living in Pennsylvania had already been married.

Under current PA law, the following exceptions exist, concerning marriage under the age of 18;
- Applicants age 15 or younger may be issued a marriage license if a court decides it is in the applicant’s best interest, and have parental consent;
- Licenses may 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.

Given these exceptions, there is no minimum age in Pennsylvania for a child to marry. Children, predominately girls, can often be forced into marriage before the age of legal majority and face lifelong, devastating consequences. My legislation would address this problem by eliminating these loopholes in the current law that allow for marriage under 18. I hope that you will join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation.

Please Note: This co-sponsorship was reintroduced to include Sen. Schwank and Sen. Reschenthaler as Co-Prime sponsors of the bill.

Introduced as SB1219