UPDATE: On April 11, the Maryland General Assembly legislative session concluded. A conference committee was convened to reconcile differences between the House and Senate bills to raise the state’s minimum marriage age, but there wasn’t enough time to draft a compromise bill before the session ended. While time ran out this session, Tahirih looks forward to working next session to end child marriage in Maryland!
Calling all Maryland residents! Legislation to end child marriage in the state is nearing the finish line. We’re almost there, but we’ve hit a potential roadblock and we need your help!
The great news: Last Monday, the House voted overwhelmingly in support of HB 799 (by a vote of 91-46), which sets the minimum legal age to marry at 18. The bill strikes exceptions in current law for 15-17 year olds based on parental consent and/or pregnancy, because they can be easy loopholes to facilitate forced marriages and other abuse and exploitation of children.
We know because that’s just what happened to a Tahirih client whose abusive mother forced her into a marriage in Maryland when she was just 16 years old to a violent and controlling man twice her age.
This amazing young survivor-turned-advocate could have been spared so much pain and heartache, if HB 799 had already been law.
The bad news: Last Wednesday, a Senate committee took SB 861 (a related bill) and significantly weakened it. They did the absolute least they could do to address child marriage in Maryland – barring 15 year olds from marrying, but otherwise leaving current law pretty much as-is. This is especially disappointing given that the vast majority of girls marrying and at-risk (like Tahirih’s client) are age 16 and 17, and so SB 861 would do nothing to help them.
Today’s challenge: The weaker Senate bill (SB 861) will be on the Senate floor for a final vote TODAY, Monday, March 27 at 7 pm. The strong House bill (HB 799) has now “crossed over” to that same Senate committee, where its Chairman could keep it from moving forward for a vote by the full Senate.
Tahirih has reached out to all 188 state legislators, and we’re asking you to contact just one – your own state Senator. Critical votes are coming up fast, and there are very few legislative days left to get this right before session ends.
Please take action TODAY!
- Find your Senator here
- Pick up the phone or send them an email
- Use the script below to tell them to support legislation to make age 18 the minimum age of marriage, no exceptions!
My name is ____, and I am your constituent in [city or town]. I was shocked to learn that child marriage is legal in Maryland, and that over 3,200 children under age 18 were married in recent years, mostly girls to adult men, many of whom are much older.
I am calling/writing to urge the Senator to do three things:
- Support HB 799. This bill passed the House with overwhelming support by a vote of 91-46. It would eliminate current exceptions to age 18 based on pregnancy or parental consent. HB 799 takes a strong and straightforward approach to ending child marriage in Maryland.
- Amend SB 861 when it comes up for a final vote tonight (March 27). This related bill was weakened by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and now basically just bars 15 year olds from marrying. It stops far short of what’s needed. SB 861 should be strengthened so as to bar all marriage under age 18.
- Urge Senator Zirkin, chair of the Senate JPR Committee to which HB 799 has been referred, to make sure HB 799 is voted out of committee and sent to the full Senate for a vote!
Thank you for helping end child marriage in Maryland!