Legislation proposed to eliminate child marriage in MI

Child marriages may sound absurd but they are allowed in Michigan.
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 4:45 PM EDT
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MICHIGAN. (WNEM) - Child marriages may sound absurd but they are allowed in Michigan.

Currently, anyone under 17 can get married with proper consent.

Legislation is being proposed that would make 18 the minimum age to get married in the state. Lawmakers say they are working to close a loophole for child rapists.

“Right now in Michigan, 16 and 17-year-olds can get married with parental consent. Children younger than 16 can get married with parental consent and judicial approval. That means that there’s no minimum age for marriage in Michigan right now,” State Rep. Kara Hope said.

That’s something Hope is trying to change. She is sponsoring a bill package that would make 18 the minimum age to marry in Michigan. No exceptions.

Hope was joined by activists and survivors of child marriage at a House Judiciary Committee meeting in Lansing on Wednesday.

“We’re completely undermining our statutory rape laws,” said Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of Unchained at Last. “Sex with a child under the age of 16 is considered felony rape in Michigan punishable by up to 20 years in prison. But marriage to a child under 16 is legal.”

During her testimony, Reiss told lawmakers this is a loophole for child rapists that must be closed.

“We’re effectively giving get-out free cards to child rapists when we issue a marriage license to somebody under the age of 16 who’s not even old enough to consent to sex. And that is happening in Michigan. Parents and judges are signing off on this,” Reiss said.

Nina Van Horn said she was forced into marriage. She pled with lawmakers to take action so her children never have to endure the same fate.

“The only legal protection my daughter Evelyn would have against this human rights abuse is a bill that passes and makes 18, no exceptions, the legal age to marry in Michigan. So please, I beg you to support this bill,” VanHorn said.

There was a no vote by the State House on Wednesday to advance the bill package to the State Senate. The representatives plan to discuss the bill package and make possible amendments to it next week.

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