FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
AUSTIN, TX – State Senator Van Taylor today passed out of the Senate S.B. 1705 aimed at ending forced marriages in Texas. Representative Senfronia Thompson filed House companion legislation, H.B. 3932, which has passed the House Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee unanimously and was sent to the Local and Consent Calendar.
Senator Taylor stated of the legislation, “In a story penned about her mother who was fourteen years old when she was married to a man she just met, Francisca Ortega wrote: ‘There are a lot of tears at an 8th grade girl’s bachelorette party.’ Those words continue to haunt my memory. Texas must have a system that protects children from being forced into marriage.”
Jeanne Smoot, Senior Policy Counsel at the Tahirih Justice Center said of working with Senator Taylor, “We are very grateful to Senator Taylor for his leadership in taking this critical step to protect children in Texas from being forced to marry. This bill empowers young people to enter marriage only with their full and free consent.”
In Texas, minors under the age of sixteen can marry with a judge’s approval. Minors aged sixteen and seventeen can be married with consent from one parent and in some cases don’t even have to be present for the marriage license to be issued. Minors who have not been emancipated lack the same legal rights as an adult. This is known as having the disabilities of minority. These minors without the full legal rights of an adult are often marrying adults with full legal rights. Oddly, after the marriage is preformed, not before, the minor is automatically emancipated.
S.B. 1705 and H.B. 3932 provide a commonsense change, moving the emancipation process to before marriage instead of after. This simple but effective change would ensure the minor getting married is doing so under their own volition. If the marriage is not desired, the child would have the legal rights to walk away from the situation as Texas would now recognize them as a self-sustaining adult capable of managing their own financial affairs.
During the committee hearings in the Senate and House, Taylor and Thompson read emotional and heart wrenching testimony from child brides who were summarily signed away in marriages with older, abusive men.
Trevicia Williams a former child bride wrote in part, “I vividly recall being a 14-year-old 9th grader with my hands filled with textbooks as I exited the high school I attended in Houston, Texas in 1983. Instead of riding the bus home, as I usually did, my mother was there to pick me up for the marriage that she and the head of the church she attended had arranged. She carried me to a Justice of the Peace in Harris County and married me off to a 26 year-old man. At that point, my life and the potentials for a bright future dramatically changed. Because of my mother’s decision, I was immediately placed in the position of being an adult, and, taking on responsibilities (e.g., being a wife, and, a year and a half later becoming a mother) that I was not psychologically developed for nor physically mature enough to handle. I was also subjected to domestic violence including physical, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse. Additionally, I felt a deep sense of being powerless because of my age. Within the first 30 days of the marriage, my now ex-husband hit me. I asked my mother if I could return home and she told me no. I couldn’t make the decisions that were required to escape from the marriage. Therefore, I had to wait until I was legally able to file for a divorce to free myself from the marriage.”
According to Department of State Health Services, Center for Health Statistics, there were 39,051 children age 17 or younger who were married in Texas between 2000 and 2014.
The Tahirih Justice Center (Tahirih) is a national non-profit that, since 1997, has served over 20,000 courageous women and children who have survived rape, domestic violence, human trafficking, female genital mutilation/cutting, forced marriage, and other abuses. Tahirih stands alone as the only national, multi-city organization providing a broad range of direct legal services, policy advocacy, and training and education to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing gender-based violence. Their efficient, effective, and innovative model of service is now delivered from four locations, including Houston. Learn more about the services Tahirih provides to those facing or fleeing forced marriages, and this issue in the U.S., at preventforced.org.
A seventh generation Texan, local small businessman, and decorated Marine Officer, Van Taylor serves the majority of Collin County and a portion of Dallas County in the Texas Senate where he is widely recognized as a conservative leader. Taylor serves as Vice-Chairman of the Sunset Advisory Commission and is also member of the Natural Resources and Economic Development, Education, Health and Human Services, Intergovernmental Relations, and Nominations Committees. Van and his wife, Anne, married after his return from Iraq and are the proud parents of three young girls. Van and his family reside in Plano near the land his great-grandfather farmed during the Great Depression.