(VitalNews.org) – Washington State prides itself on being a safe space for those with unconventional lifestyles, including child marriage. Between 2000 and 2018, 4,381 minor teens were married in the state, according to the nonprofit organization Unchained at Last. In the US as a whole, the organization says, that number was 300,000.
Washington House Bill 1455 seemed to be getting attention in March after it passed the state House unanimously. However, the measure didn’t get voted out of a Senate Committee on time to be scheduled for a floor vote. The state’s legislative session ends for the year on April 23.
Under current Washington law, children of any age can get married. Those at least 17 years old can do so with only their parents’ consent. Children younger than that can marry if they can convince a judge to approve it.
Other states raised their minimum marriage age laws this year. West Virginia and Wyoming raised it to 18 (with some exceptions). Neighboring Oregon requires a minimum age of 17, while Idaho, to the east of Washington, pegs the age at 16.
Fraidy Reiss, founder and CEO of Unchained at Last, said it’s “almost always” a child’s parents that force them to marry. She said most Americans don’t realize that child marriage is still a problem in the modern era, but at least there’s no organized opposition to raising the marriage age. State legislatures, though, don’t put a priority on the issue, Reiss said.
The chairwoman of the state’s Law and Justice Committee, Democratic Sen. Manka Dhingra, said she has to choose which bills to focus on, and this session, there were 65 submitted to her committee. “I look forward to giving it a hearing next session,” she said of the marriage age bill.
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