Mar 1, 2023 - News

The bill to end child marriage in Texas

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

A new bill in the state Legislature would outlaw marriage in Texas for anyone under 18.

Why it matters: More than 40,000 people under the age of 18 have been legally married in Texas between 2000 and 2018 — more than any other state — according to the Journal of Adolescent Health.

What's happening: House Bill 924, filed by Rep. Jon Rosenthal, a Democrat from Houston, would ban marriage for all minors, without exceptions. If passed, the bill would close a loophole left in a 2017 law that allows 16- and 17-year-old emancipated minors to marry.

Reality check: Rosenthal filed a similar bill in 2021 but it didn't get out of committee.

By the numbers: Roughly 96% of the minors married in Texas between 2000 and 2018 were girls marrying adult men, according to Unchained's analysis of marriage-license data retrieved from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

  • Between 70% and 80% of child marriages end in divorce, per Forbes.
  • Girls who marry before age 18 are 50% more likely to drop out of school.
  • Early marriage doubles a teenager's chances of living in poverty and triples the likelihood of experiencing domestic violence.

Zoom out: Seven states — plus the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa — have banned underage marriages without exceptions, per Unchained.

  • Ten other states, including Texas, have similar legislation pending.

What we're watching: Conservative cultural battles across the state, from fights over banned books to panic over drag shows, have focused on the idea of protecting children. Will the same conservatives concerned about those issues support Rosenthal's bill?

What they're saying: "In an age when we're concerned about family values and protecting children, we should protect them from being married off as children," Rosenthal tells Axios.

Worthy of your time: Listen to this story, from a woman who was married as a child.


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