Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are among several leftist organizations fighting against California’s proposed ban on child marriages.
California and Mississippi are currently the only states in the nation with no minimum age requirement for marriage. The legislature will introduce a new attempt to limit marriage to people over 18 next year.
“In California, the age of sexual consent is 18 without exception, and anyone over that age engaging in intercourse with a minor can be charged with statutory rape,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “But the state’s definition of unlawful sexual activity between an adult and a minor applies only if they are not married. That creates what some advocates see as a loophole in which the act of marriage can sanction what would otherwise be a crime.”
Planned Parenthood claims that the law could create a “slippery slope” that would make it easier to ban or limit abortions for minors.
“Among their concerns is that a total ban on marriage of minors could be a slippery slope and impede constitutional rights or reproductive choices, including access to abortion,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
The ACLU claims banning child marriage “unnecessarily and unduly intrudes on the fundamental right of marriage without sufficient cause.”
“‘That pretty much made it clear I was not going to be able to do this,’ former Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill, who attempted to ban underage marriage in 2017, said of the unexpected opposition from the influential groups,” according to the report.
Hill said the pushback from progressive organizations was “the big shock of my life.” He had taken up the fight after hearing about a 13-year-old California girl who was scheduled to be in an arranged marriage with a 28-year-old man from another country.
“I was amazed and appalled and frankly ashamed of California, that we had not done anything about this,” he told the Times.
Last month, dozens of survivors of child marriage traveled to the state Capitol to call for a ban on the practice, dressed in wedding gowns, chains around their wrists, and with their mouths duct-taped shut.
Thank you @UnchainedAtLast for hosting a press conference in protest against forced child marriage. No child should ever be forced into a marriage they do not consent to. That is why I am committed to ending this human rights abuse in California. pic.twitter.com/amQTdb5wcE
— Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (@AsmCottie) June 22, 2023
A spokesperson for the ACLU told the Times that their position on the issue has not changed.
Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California spokesperson Jennifer Wonnacott told the paper that the organization “strongly supports protecting youth from abuse of all kinds” but that protections against exploitation should “not impede on the reproductive rights of minors and their ability to decide what is best for them, their health and their lives.”