Bill Ending Child Marriage In Pennsylvania Signed Into Law

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

Pennsylvania is the third state in the country to enact a law completely prohibiting marriage among minors.

Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 18 into law Friday. It ends marriage among people under the age of 18 for any reason. New Jersey and Delaware passed similar legislation in 2018.

Under previous state law, marriage licenses could be granted to minors under 16 years old with court approval. Additionally, teenagers between 16 and 18 could be married with parental consent.

State Rep. Perry Warren (D-Bucks) first introduced H.B. 1038 in Mar. 2017. More than three years later, the effort paid off.

“I am honored to be a part of Pennsylvania’s leadership in protecting our children,” said Warren.

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

But Warren did not work alone. He had help from Unchained At Last, a non-profit dedicated to ending child marriage throughout the United States. Fraidy Reiss, the Founder and Executive Director of UnChained, worked with Warren to draft the legislation.

Additionally, a documentary focusing on survivors of child marriage, including Reiss, brought a spotlight to the situation. The documentary also included Warren’s work with Reiss.

Back when Knots: A Forced Marriage Story was being filmed in 2017, none of the 50 states had laws on the books to end child marriage with no exceptions.

“We don’t want more loopholes, we want to eliminate them,” said Reiss at the time.

In the three years since introducing the bill, Warren slowly gained support from his peers in the state legislature. Its final version, H.B. 360, had bipartisan sponsors and passed unanimously in the state House and Senate.

Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford/Fulton/Franklin, co-sponsored H.B. 360.

“I would like to thank Representative Warren for his help on this important child protection measure and would also like to applaud the governor for signing this bill into law,” Topper said. “The elimination of child marriage is a huge step against human trafficking and our protection of those who are most vulnerable.”

The fourth state to end child marriage could be Minnesota; its state legislature voted unanimously last week to end the practice.