05.09.21 Bill asks: How many children marry in California?

Excerpted from the Orange County Register

By Brooke Staggs

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.