Summary of Current Child Marriage Laws Nationwide
In 2018 bills to end Child Marriage were successful in Delaware and New Jersey. As a result, there is considerable momentum around this issue. Georgia passed a law raising the minimum age to marry from 16 to 17 in May 2019. The new bill enacted in the Conservative State of Georgia is now stronger than the protections we give children in the state of California. In January 2020, Child Marriage was banned in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In May 2020, Pennsylvania and Minnesota passed laws to end Child Marriage. In June 2021, Rhode Island passed the law to end Child Marriage under 18, No Exceptions. As of today, five states have ended Child Marriage with no exceptions and the practice remains legal in 45 states.
Summary of Current Child Marriage Law in California
Most Californians are shocked to find out Child Marriage is legal in their state and 45 other states. Current law in California established by SB273 approved by the Governor in September 2018 and effective January 2019 includes no minimum age to marry. The minimum age to marry is also referred to as an “age floor.” Minors can marry with permission from their parents and the court. The 2018 bill presented in Sacramento failed to connect Child Marriage to Californians and to connect to a global campaign to prevent human rights abuse. The California Coalition to End Child Marriage believes this legislative misstep resulted from a lack of education, a failure to listen to the Voices of Survivors, and a lack of community awareness. Going forward, The California Coalition to End Child Marriage will engage the public to build a coalition of support.
Five states have enacted “No Child Marriage, No Exceptions” laws
These legal victories have set forth a wave of momentum to strengthen laws across the United States. Eleven states including California currently have no minimum age for when children can get married, referred to as an “age floor.” An additional five states have an age floor below the age of 16.
A severely watered-down bill passed the California state legislature in Summer 2018. Many are shocked to learn that Child Marriage is legal in the state of California. The California Coalition to End Child Marriage educates the community and tirelessly advocates for “No Child Marriage, No Exceptions” laws in California and the United States.
We are encouraged by the following legislative changes that have improved protections for minors. We hope to see California added to this list in 2021!
- March 2018: Florida (Statute 741.4) raises the minimum age to marry age 17.
- May 2018: Delaware (HB 337) becomes the first state to ban Child Marriage full stop with the nation's first "No Child Marriage, No exceptions" law.
- June 2018: New Jersey (S. 247) becomes the second state to ban Child Marriage. Former Governor, Chris Christie had vetoed the bill in May 2017.
- April 2019: Nevada (AB139) raises the minimum age to marry to 17.
- May 2019: Georgia (hb 228) raises the minimum age to marry to 17.
- May 2020: Both Pennsylvania (HB 360) and Minnesota (HF 745) pass “18, No Exceptions” laws.
- June 2021: Rhode Island (H5387/S398) pass "18, No Exceptions" laws.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
The United States and 192 other countries have signed on to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”). Child Mmarriage is included under Goal 5 “Gender Equality.” The review of Child Marriage laws has gotten an additional push from the global spotlight on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs bring attention to areas where the US and other developed countries are not yet in line with global human rights standards.