Child marriage bill hits snag, Judiciary Committee chair says

02/27/2018 01:31 PM

FRANKFORT – A bill which would raise the legal age for most marriages to 18 years old and would establish a ceiling of 4 years age difference between 17-year-olds and the adult that they are seeking to marry, has hit a road block.

Senate Bill 48 is sponsored by Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, and is a measure meant to reduce marriages between primarily men in their 40s, 50s and 60s to children under 17. The bill has drawn some apprehension from lawmakers who are concerned that the legislation replaces parents with the courts or government in general, according to some in the legislature.

Currently in Kentucky, teens under 18 can marry at the age of 16 or 17 with a parent’s permission. Teens under 16 can marry with a judge’s permission in the case of a pregnancy.

Senate Judiciary chair Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, says that while he understands the concerns of government intervention, he believes there are instances in which unfit parents work to harm a child by forcing them into a marriage, such as the case with Donna Pollard, who testified before the committee. Pollard talked about how she, as a 14-year-old, was forced into an abusive marriage with a 29-year-old man by an abusive mother.

“I understand that reluctance there, and I understand the sort of signals it sends to parents, but I think we also have to address the situation that Miss Pollard talked about, she is the victim of an abusive parent,” Westerfield said.

Despite the temporary snag, Westerfield is still confident the bill will get passed.

“I think we can find a compromise, and I look forward to getting a bill out of committee,” Westerfield said. “The idea of teenagers, 13 and 14, getting married to 40, 50, 60-year-old men ordinarily, getting married to minor children, girls, is disturbing. Of course there should be a statute that prohibits that.”

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