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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 20, 2018 03:36 PM
From: Senator John P. Sabatina, Jr. and Sen. Judith L. Schwank, Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Ending Child Marriage in Pennsylvania
Soon, I plan to re-introduce legislation (previously SB 1219 of 2018) with my colleagues Sen. Schwank and Sen. Langerholc.

This legislation amends Title 23 (Domestic Relations) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, 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 join a companion 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 18 other states that do not specify a minimum age for marriage, without exception, and to bring our laws in line with neighboring states in the Northeast. One study, by Unchained At Last, an organization that works to end child marriage and forced marriage in America, estimated that there were nearly a quarter-million child marriages in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010. U.S. Census data shows that, as of 2014, an estimated 2,323 children age 15 to 17 living in Pennsylvania had already been married.

Under current Pennsylvania law, the following exceptions, concerning marriage under the age of 18 exist:
  • Applicants age 15 or younger may be issued a marriage license if a court decides it is in the applicant’s best interest and the applicant has parental consent;
  • Applicants age 16 or 17 may be issued a marriage license if the applicant has parental consent or if 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 health, education, economic, and safety 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.

Previous Co-Sponsors were Senators: Schwank, Reschenthaler, Fontana, Greenleaf, Tartaglione, Langerholc, Farnese, Hughes, Leach, Bartolotta, McGarrigle, Blake, Street, Brewster, Stefano and Yudichak.

Introduced as SB81