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Assemblymember Petrie-Norris and Survivors Announce Bill to Fully End State-Sanctioned Child Marriage in California

For immediate release:

Sacramento, CA — Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine) introduced AB 2924, a bill to finally end the gruesome act of state-sanctioned child marriage in California. In 2021 alone, it is estimated that more than 8,700 children are estimated to have been married in California. The legislation is sponsored by Unchained At Last, a survivor-led nonprofit organization committed to ending forced and child marriage in the United States.

“The U.S. considers marriage under the age of 18 to be a human rights abuse, yet, right here in the great state of California, children are still victims of forced child marriage,” said Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris. “It is absolutely shocking, it is horrifying, and it is time we finally end this outrageous practice.” 

California’s marriage age is 18, but laws on the books include alarming loopholes. A parent may “consent” to the marriage of their child at any age with judicial approval, and the court may enter a child of any age into marriage if the child does not have a parent capable of “consenting” to the marriage. Additionally, a child-marriage license is valid defense to statutory rape charges, granting sexual predators an incentive to force a child to wed.

Studies have shown that child marriage is detrimental to a girls’ health, education and economic opportunities, and increases their risk of experiencing physical and sexual violence.  The U.S. State Department has identified child marriage as a “human rights abuse,” and UNICEF has declared it a harmful practice and a violation of child rights. New York, Michigan, and other major U.S. states have banned this state-sanctioned practice, safeguarding children from being forced into the often-abusive plight of child marriage.

"The fight against child marriage requires uncompromising and uniform standards across all states. California has the opportunity to join states around the country to protect children from the rape and abuse that is child marriage,” said Fraidy Reiss, forced marriage survivor and founder/executive director of Unchained At Last, a survivor-led nonprofit organization committed to ending forced and child marriage in the United States. “I have witnessed firsthand the long-term devastation that child marriage causes. Children are subjected to an endless cycle of mental, physical and sexual abuse, all sanctioned by the state."

In recent years, the California Legislature has considered and enacted new laws around child marriage; however, efforts have fallen short when it comes to full protections for these victims. Most recently, Michigan passed a package of legislation (Rep. Anthony) to ban the archaic practice of child marriage. In 2021, New York passed A3891/S3086 (Rep. Ramos & Sen. Salazar), effectively ending all marriages before the age of 18. Unchained At Last, through its extensive work in providing legal and social services to victims, has witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of child marriage. The organization emphasizes that any law permitting child marriage fails to safeguard the fundamental rights and well-being of minors.  

AB 2924 is co-authored by a bipartisan, bicameral cohort of legislators from across the state including: Assemblymember Addis (D-Morro Bay), Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), Assemblymember Calderon (D-Whittier), Assemblymember J. Carrillo (D-Palmdale), Assemblymember Connolly (D-San Rafael), Assemblymember Dixon (R-Newport Beach), Assemblymember Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), Assemblymember McKinnor (D-Inglewood), Assemblymember Ortega (D-San Leandro), Assemblymember Nguyen (D-Elk Grove), Assemblymember Papan (D-San Mateo), Assemblymember Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), Assemblymember L. Rivas (D-Los Angeles), Assemblymember Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), Assemblymember Schiavo (D-Los Angeles), Assemblymember Waldron (R-Valley Center) Assemblymember Ward (D-San Diego), Assemblymember Wilson (D-Suisun City), State Senator Blakespear (D-Encinitas), State Senator Hurtado (D-Bakersfield), State Senator Menjivar (D-Los Angeles), State Senator Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa), State Senator Rubio (D-Baldwin Park).

For more information about AB 2924, visit Unchained At Last: