Bill Banning Child Marriage Passed Unanimously, Heads To Governor’s Desk

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

Three years after a bill to ban child marriage in Pennsylvania was introduced in the state House, it is on its way to the Governor’s desk. The bill passed the state House and Senate unanimously Wednesday.

It removes all exceptions for marriage under the age of 18, making it completely illegal to marry a minor in the commonwealth. Its current iteration is House Bill 360.

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

State Rep. Perry Warren (D-Bucks) introduced the bill. Warren has worked extensively with Unchained At Last, an organization dedicated to banning child marriage throughout the country.

“With the abolition of child marriage, Pennsylvania is safeguarding its children,” Warren said. “This bill will help ensure the long-term health of children and improve their health and educational and job opportunities.”

More than 200,000 minors were married to adults older than themselves between 2000 and 2015. Most were young girls, some as young as 12 years old.

State Reps. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford) co-sponsored the bill. Warren thanked Topper for helping to bring the

“I am deeply gratified that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both chambers came together to protect Pennsylvania’s children, and special thanks to Representative Topper and Senator John Sabatina who worked so hard to raise awareness of this child protection issue in the legislature and throughout state.”

H.B. 360 passed the PA House unanimously in June 2019. It went to the state Senate, where it waited until April 2020. It passed unanimously, 50-0, in the Senate Wednesday. The bill returned to the House, where it was again voted on unanimously.

With the blessings of both chambers, it heads to the Governor’s desk.

Unchained At Last is calling on Governor Wolf to sign H.B. 360. UNICEF USA also posted its endorsement on Twitter.

“Worldwide, 600M+ young women and girls have married before their 18th birthday – but only 2 U.S. states have banned child marriage,” UNICEF tweeted. “Governor Wolf, you can make PA the 3rd. On behalf of our local supporters, we urge you to sign HB360 into law and #EndChildMarriage in PA.”

Delaware and New Jersey were the first two states to pass similar laws in 2018.