If you are younger than 18 in California you can’t get a tattoo, buy a Lottery ticket, or visit a tanning bed. But you can get married.
California is one of only 11 states that has no minimum age requirement for marriage.
With an OK from a parent and a judge, it’s estimated that a couple thousand minors get married in California each year — most often a younger girl wedding an older man. But weak data collection laws mean we don’t know exactly how many minors get married, or their ages, or the ages of their spouses. And activists who want to curb child marriage say that lack of data has helped sink previous efforts to ban the practice in California. With no hard numbers, opponents can simply insist it’s not a real problem.
A new bill from Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Beach, aims to fix that by requiring more regular, thorough and public reporting on underage marriages in California.
“This data will help substantiate what we know to be true — child marriage is a persistent and pervasive problem in California,” Petrie-Norris said.
Survivors of child marriage say it’s a message they’ve tried to tell lawmakers for years.
Elizabeth Sitton’s mom and stepfather raised her in a religious commune in Murrieta. When she was in eighth grade, they pulled her out of school and had her start teaching the commune’s younger children. When she was 16, they forced her to marry a 28-year-old man she barely knew.
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