Children under the age of 18 can marry in Texas. It must stop, says the legislator.

Children under the age of 18 can marry in Texas.  It must stop, says the legislator.
Children under the age of 18 can marry in Texas.  It must stop, says the legislator.

Two years after a bill to ban child marriage died at the Texas Capitol, a Houston lawmaker is trying again.

Rep. Rep. Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston, is pushing legislation that would make marriage for youth under 18 illegal. The state passed a law in 2017 that raised the minimum age for marriage to 18. But it also allowed emancipated teenagers to marry. Since teenagers can legally emancipate themselves at 16, this means that 16 and 17 year olds can get married.

House Bill 924 would put an end to that.

“At a time when we are concerned about family values ​​and protecting children, we should protect them from being married off as children,” Rosenthal said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle.

Rosenthal filed a similar bill in 2021, but the legislation died in the House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee.

At the time, some more conservative committee members put the brakes on, saying they didn’t want to stand in the way of parents who might want to marry off their pregnant daughters, Rosenthal said. But the committee composition has changed, he said, and there is a new chair. It can change things.

“We want to empower children and women and girls, and putting them in this kind of relationship is the exact opposite of that,” Rosenthal said.

Across the country, opposition to such a proposal falls into three main categories, according to the University of Cincinnati Law Review. Critics say such legislation limits personal freedom, is an intrusion by the government into the right to marry, and that there are already enough protections against child marriage.

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In other states, Republicans have said a ban on child marriage would strip underage partners of benefits if they were in a relationship with someone in the military. Others said a ban could potentially harm babies born to unmarried teenage girls.

The current Texas bill comes at a time when GOP lawmakers are pushing a series of measures they say will protect children from exploitation and abuse.

Marriage between youths under the age of 18 occurs in Texas more than one might imagine. Between 2000 and 2018, more than 41,000 such unions took place, according to Unchained, a nonprofit organization that aims to end forced and child marriage. Of these, 96 per cent were girls married to adult men.

Girls are often coerced or coerced into these marriages, experts say. The impact of these unions can be devastating. Many girls report physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse, according to a study. These teenage girls also deal with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. They are also more likely to drop out of school and live in poverty.

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