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The West Virginia bill to ban child marriage isn’t dead yet

Published Friday, Mar. 10th, 2023

WV Senators revive a measure to raise the minimum age to marry to 18 without exception



When committee members in the West Virginia Senate voted 9-8 against an underage marriage ban earlier this week, most people thought the controversial legislation was dead for good. 


Headlines announcing the bill’s demise spread quickly, including articles in Rolling Stone, FOX News, and HuffPost (the later of which declared, “Bill To Ban Child Marriage In West Virginia Defeated By Republicans”).  


But last night, that bill was unexpectedly brought back to life – or as AP News says, HB3018 was "resurrected." 


During the Thursday evening Senate floor session, Sen. Charles Trump requested that the measure be withdrawn from the committee that rejected it, to be read a second time. A majority of Senators present agreed.


The bill was retrieved from the committee, read a second time, and has advanced to a third reading, with the option for legislators to make amendments to it before a vote. 


This somewhat uncommon move is allowed under Senate Rule 34, which states that “Any bill, resolution or business may, by majority vote of the members present, be withdrawn from the committee to which it had been referred or be taken from the table, and placed upon the calendar of the Senate,” except for bills referred to the Committee on Rules which must receive a two-thirds vote (rather than a simple majority).


If HB3018 is passed into law without amendment, the legal age to marry in the state would be 18 years old, with no exceptions. 


Currently, children between the ages of 16 and 18 can marry in West Virginia with the permission of a parent or guardian, and children under the age of 16 can marry with the permission of both a judge and guardian. In practice, this means that children of any age can be married in the state.



What’s next? 


WV House Bill 3018 was passed by the WV House of Delegates on March 1st, and its second reading in the Senate was on March 9th. It’s currently on its 3rd reading in the Senate with the right to amend. 


The bill is sponsored by Democratic Del. Kayla Young of Kanawha County, and is co-sponsored by both Republican and Democratic legislators. 



Headshot photo of WV Delegate Kayla Young, she is a young woman with short blond hair and a pink suit jacket

Del. Kayla Young



The rejection and resurrection of HB3018 reflects an ongoing conflict over the future of child marriage in the country, and increasing awareness about the negative impacts these marriages can have. 


Laws like this one have been proposed all over the country in the past few years, and at least eight other states are considering similar legislation in 2023, including Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Vermont, and Washington. The bills in these states would either limit or fully prohibit underage marriage.



Currently, only seven U.S. states and one U.S. territory strictly prohibit underage marriages: Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


How common is child marriage in the U.S.? According to advocacy group Unchained At Last, nearly 300,000 children were legally married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2018, and that “Most were girls wed to adult men an average of four years older.” 


In West Virginia, there have been at least 3,600 marriages involving a minor since the year 2000 (according to the Del. Young, via AP News). 


Related: How Old Do You Have To Be To Get Married In Each State?





Stay up to date on marriage laws in your state


Lawmakers around the country will be discussing dozens of proposed changes to marriage laws in the coming days and weeks.


AMM works hard to keep our ministers informed of important changes to the marriage laws in their states and around the country, to ensure that they have the information they need to officiate weddings and serve their communities well. 


To stay informed on what’s new in your state, visit the AMM News Page on the blog and subscribe to AMM’s Monthly Newsletter: 






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American Marriage Ministries is a non-profit, interfaith and non-denominational constitutional church that provides free ordination, advocacy, and training for our ministers to ensure that all people have the right to get married and to perform marriage. Learn more here. 




Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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