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HARRISBURG – The House today approved legislation by Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Franklin/Fulton) to increase the legal age a person can get married to 18 as part of efforts to address the heinous crime of human trafficking.

Rep. Jesse Topper
Rep. Jesse Topper

The majority of child marriages involve young girls and adult men. These relationships would otherwise lead to statutory rape charges. However, an exception in the law prevents charges from being filed when the cases involve spouses despite the marriage being between a minor and an adult.

“This bill serves to protect our youth from being coerced into marriage and potentially exploited … Human trafficking reaches people of all aspects of life, especially children between the ages of 12 and 14. My bill adds another layer of protection for our vulnerable youth.”

Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Franklin/Fulton)

Under current Pennsylvania law, a marriage license may be issued to an applicant younger than 16 with court approval. A marriage license also may be issued when an applicant is older than 16 but younger than 18 with the consent of a parent or guardian.

House Bill 360 would amend current state statute to prohibit the issuance of a marriage license to anyone under the age of 18. 

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“Children under the age of 18 cannot vote, serve in the military and buy alcohol or tobacco products, among other things,” Topper said. “Marriage is a life-altering decision and those who enter into it must be of a certain maturity that comes with age.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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