Washington state lawmakers pass bill prohibiting child marriages

A bill to prohibit child marriages in Washington state has been passed by the Legislature and is now awaiting the governor’s approval.

House Bill 1455 aims to invalidate any marriage that includes individuals under the age of 18.

In Washington state, teenagers as young as 17 can get married as long as they have their parents’ consent. Furthermore, individuals under the age of 17 can also enter into marriage if a superior court judge grants them authorization.

In the 2023 legislative session, state Rep. Monica Jurado Stonier, D-Vancouver, introduced a measure that gained unanimous approval in the House. However, it faced obstacles in the Senate and was unable to progress last year.

HB 1455, which was reintroduced in January, passed the House with an overwhelming majority of 98-0. It then received approval from the Senate with a vote of 48-1, with the only dissenting vote coming from Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Spokane. The measure has now been delivered to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office.

According to Inslee spokesman Mike Faulk, the governor is in favor of the Legislature’s efforts to safeguard children from being coerced into marriage. However, he has not yet received detailed information regarding the specifics outlined in the bill.

The new law is expected to be enacted in June, following the adjournment of the current session, which is set to take place on Thursday, March 7th.

“I believe it is crucial to put an end to the intergenerational trauma caused by individuals being coerced into lifestyles or marriages they are ill-prepared for,” emphasized Stonier in an interview with The Seattle Times.

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During legislative testimony, there was no opposition to the bill. Various organizations, including the Latino Civic Alliance, the National Coalition to End Child Marriage, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, Unchained At Last, and the Advocacy Club, expressed their support for the measure.

According to Unchained At Last, child marriage is still legal in 40 states, allowing for nearly 300,000 children to be married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2018. Shockingly, some of these children were as young as 10 years old, with most of them being girls married to adult men.

Stonier was not the only sponsor of HB 1455; she was joined by several other House Democrats including Liz Berry, Darya Farivar, Julia Reed, Melanie Morgan, My-Linh Thai, Mary Fosse, Gerry Pollet, Nicole Macri, and Jessica Bateman. Republican Skyler Rude also co-sponsored the bill.

A similar bill, Senate Bill 5695, was also presented in the Senate.

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