Texas just made child marriage illegal (because no, it wasn’t already, and still isn’t in many states)

When we think of marriage in the U.S., we don’t usually picture underage girls being forced to marry someone they barely know for religious or financial reasons. Forced marriage is unacceptable, and child marriage is unfathomable. However, a number of states permit underage marriage to occur with parental consent, meaning parents can force their underage daughters to wed — often for religious purposes.

Thankfully, we just heard that Texas made child marriage illegal (aka, for anyone under the age of 18).

This is a relief,  because according to The Huffington Post, Texas was responsible for around 2000 child marriages every year. Now children under 18 won’t be allowed to get married even with consent from their parents (16 and 17 year olds who are legally emancipated from their parents are the only exception). It’s a tough topic, but the spotlight needs to be on child marriage until it is investigated in every state.

"We applaud Texas for closing legal loopholes in its minimum marriage age laws that have put far too many girls at risk, for far too long, said Jeanne Smoot, senior counsel for policy at Tahirih Justice Center, in a press release to The Huffington Post. "Texas had one of the worst child marriage rates in the country, but with this new law, the state is instead at the forefront of the national movement to tackle child marriage in America."

Of course, this doesn’t change the reality that in many U.S. states, children can still marry with the consent of their parents or a judge.

Hopefully the passing of the Texas bill will save many children from forced underage marriage, and ultimately strengthen the idea that marriage is a choice to be made by adults who are physically and emotionally ready to enter into a loving, secure partnership.