Marriage age bill encounters resistance during perfection

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Opponents of establishing a minimum age to get married in Missouri called the legislation unnecessary government intervention and said it “plainly usurps parental rights.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jean Evans, would require those wishing to be married be 15-years-old or older, minors would be required to obtain approval from one parent and a judge. Marriage between a minor and an adult over the age of 21 would be prohibited. The legislation was perfected Wednesday. 

“Everyone who votes yes on this bill can go back to their districts and tell their constituents that to make a decision for their child, they must hire an attorney, pay court costs so that a judge can decide what is right for their family,” Rep. Wanda Brown said. “You are telling every parent in this state that you would rather the government make the decision for their child instead of trusting the parent.”

The bill is aimed at protecting children, according to Evans. There have been multiply reports of individuals taking advantage of Missouri’s law — or lack thereof. Rep. Judy Morgan recounted a news story of a pregnant 15-year-old girl from Idaho being brought to Missouri by her father to marry her convicted rapist. Evan cited the popularity of minor marriages licenses issued in Missouri are for those from out-of-state.

Rep. Rick Brattin called the bill unnecessary government intervention, saying it interferes with decisions better left to families and those involved. He also raised concerns from a religious standpoint that it would interfere with practices of some faiths.

“People have religious beliefs that contradict with our laws,” Evans said. “When you come to our country, you follow our laws. When you come to our state, you follow our laws.”

A plethora of supporters stood up to argue against the “unnecessary” government intervention claim.

The Constitution treats children as a protected class, limiting their rights until they reach the age of majority, according to supporters. To vote, join the military, to smoke, to rent an apartment, an individual must be 18-years-of-age or older in Missouri.  

Plus, the state already put limitations on marriage, Rep. Peter Merideth pointed out. Siblings can not obtain a state marriage license, a person can only be married to one person at a time and until it was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court, marriage could only be between a man and a woman.

“This is reasonable change,” said Rep. Michael Butler.

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.