Bill To Ban Child Marriage Underway

In late February, the Washington state Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to establish a minimum marriage age of 18, paving the way for Governor Jay Inslee’s signature, the Associated Press reported.

The state legislature failed to pass the measure in 2023 after the bill was stalled in the state Senate.

However, on the first day of the 2024 legislative session, the state House unanimously passed HB 1455. The Senate followed suit on February 23, approving the measure in a 48 to 1 vote. Republican state Senator Jeff Holy was the only one to vote against the measure.

Currently, Washington state is one of only five states that have no minimum age requirement for marriage. A 17-year-old can legally marry in the state with parental consent while children even younger can marry with the approval of a judge.

According to the group Unchained At Last, an organization that fights to end child marriage, between 2000 and 2018, nearly 300,000 minors, including some as young as 10, were wed in the United States. In most cases, the minor was a girl who was marrying an adult man.

Unchained at Last said over 5,000 minors were married in Washington state between 2000 and 2021.

Supporters of the Washington bill argue that requiring a minimum age of 18 reduces unwanted pregnancies and incidents of domestic violence.

According to the Seattle Times, in Washington state, domestic violence shelters do not accommodate minors under 18.

State Rep. Monica Stonier, the sponsor of the bill, told the Seattle Times that it was time for the state to “stop the generational trauma” of being “forced” into marriages and lifestyles that minors are “not equipped to take up.”

Governor Inslee is expected to sign the bill into law.

Ten other states, including Minnesota and New York, have a minimum marriage age of 18.