Government & Politics

Bill to restrict child marriage in Missouri moves forward

Which state laws are the most lenient for child brides?

Laws for 15-year-olds getting married vary widely across the nation. Here's a state-by-state breakdown.
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Laws for 15-year-olds getting married vary widely across the nation. Here's a state-by-state breakdown.

A bill that would set some restrictions on teen marriage in Missouri is one step closer to becoming law after clearing a Senate committee Wednesday.

House Bill 1630 will now go before the full Missouri Senate after passing out of the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families and Children. It was approved by the Missouri House last month by a vote of 95 to 50.

Missouri is the only state that requires only the signature of one parent for a 15-year-old to marry, which has made the state a popular destination for child brides. Most other states ban such marriages outright or require a judge's approval.

The Star highlighted in a series this month how Missouri’s lenient law has made it nearly impossible to prevent children from marrying their statutory rapists.

The bill, which was sponsored by St. Louis County Republican Rep. Jean Evans, seeks to toughen restrictions.

It would prohibit anyone under 15 from marrying and would ban anyone age 21 or older from marrying a child age 16 or younger. The legislation also would require a judge as well as a parent to sign off on marriages for 15- and 16-year-olds.

The House approved similar legislation last year, but the session ended before the Senate acted on the bill.

Evans said in an email that she is optimistic about the bill's chances of going to the governor's desk.

"The Bill passed the Senate committee unanimously. ... I’m hopeful that the Senate will recognize the need for this important legislation and pass it," Evans said.

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