New Missouri Bill Would Ban Marriage for 15 and 16-Year-Olds

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SHUTTERSTOCK/SHUNEVYCH SERHII
  • Shutterstock/Shunevych Serhii
A new bill proposed in the Missouri legislature would restrict marriage to those at least seventeen years of age — even if they have their parents' consent.

And lest you're wondering how that possibility represents a change from the status quo, rest assured: As it turns out, sixteen and even fifteen-year-olds are currently permitted to wed in Missouri, so long as they have parental permission.

Because, yeah! Who isn't ready for marriage as a sophomore in high school?

The bill, pre-filed by incoming state Representative Jean Evans (R-Manchester) for next year's legislative session, would push back the minimum age to seventeen.

Evans argues that abusers use Missouri's lax marriage laws to hide coercive and even abusive situations.

“It’s illegal for an adult to have sexual contact with a child, but our laws have a loophole that allows these abusers to marry their victims and get away with the crime,” she said in a press release. “It’s time to close the loophole so we can protect our young people from those who would exploit and harm them.”

The bill will be up for discussion when the legislative sessions begins January 4. So hold on to your hats and wigs — how much do you want to bet that this reform will trigger no end of controversy?

We can hear the questions now. Shouldn't parents have the right to marry off their young'uns? Shouldn't kids be allowed to sign their lives away even before they're old enough to drink, smoke or join the military? And finally, isn't getting divorced by sixteen a fine old Missouri tradition? Do we really want to change the very culture of this state?

Yeah, there are some big questions here. Stay tuned for some very serious debate.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com


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