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Texas Matters: Child Brides, Legal Pot and Abbott's Big Government

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United States foreign policy deems child marriage a “human rights abuse,” and the nation has called on other countries to eliminate it. However, child marriage continues to be allowed in the U.S.

Experts say these child marriages are dangerous. Child brides married to much older men face interrupted education, poor health, unintended pregnancy, and domestic violence.

Early marriage doubles a teenager's chances of living in poverty and triples the likelihood of experiencing domestic violence.

Nearly 300,000 children were married in the United States between 2000 and 2018. And Texas was a leading state for child marriage.

More than 5,000 of those marriages involved age differences that would have constituted sex crimes, according to Unchained at Last, a nonprofit dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the U.S.

No central repository in the U.S. collects marriage-age data from all 50 states. Retrieving marriage-certificate data from each state individually and compiling the results is the best alternative, but not all states systematically track or make available these data.

But a bill before the Texas legislature would outlaw marriage in Texas for anyone under 18.

Representative Jon Rosenthal, a Democrat from Houston authored House Bill 924 which would ban marriage for all minors, without exceptions. The bill closes a loophole left in a law passed in 2017 that allows 16- and 17-year-old emancipated minors to marry. However, Rosenthal filed a similar bill in 2021 but it didn't get out of committee.

Fraidy Reiss is the founder and executive director of Unchained At Last, an organization dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the United States through direct services and advocacy.


The pattern has become we have a legislative session, and some incremental progress is made towards decriminalizing cannabis. Pot is made slightly more available for medical use but only in a narrow field of compassionate use, but legal marijuana access isn’t available in a way that the majority of the people who could benefit from its could actually light up and do that. Those people who are dealing with chronic pain, anxiety or an undiagnosed ailment have little choice but to break the law or travel out of state to where there is greater freedom.

But perhaps there will be bigger strides this legislative session.

House Bill 218, was recently passed out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, sponsored by Rep. Joe Moody (D), the committee’s chair.

The bill would decriminalize low level personal-use marijuana possession, removing the risk of arrest or jail time and allowing individuals to eventually erase the matters from their criminal records.

The full Texas House of Representatives has already passed similar cannabis decriminalization proposals during the past two legislative sessions, in 2021 and 2019. But so far, the proposals have consistently stalled in the Senate amid opposition from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Jax James is the Texas Director of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

Abbott’s Big Gov

In the Texas legislature Republicans are seeking to expand state authority and shrink local control at the city and county level.

Backed by Gov. Abbott, if HB 2127 is passed, the consequences will be wide and far-reaching. A city or county may no longer be able to adopt or enforce ordinances or orders designed to protect its residents from drought conditions, overgrown lots, dangerous animals, predatory lending businesses, controlled burns and local sporting events.

Bennett Sandlin is the Executive Director of the Texas Municipal League.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi