The House is now considering legislation that would ban child marriage in Missouri. The recently passed Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, R-Scott City.

She wants to ban marriages for anyone under 18 without exceptions. She told a House committee that Missouri’s lax marriage laws are a contributing factor to sex trafficking.

“There’s been a tie with that,” she said. “Bringing kids in and then taking them to a state that they can be married and it’s a lot of times, marriage is a part of it. It’s slavery and bringing that child into your home. That’s what we’ve seen across the U.S.”

Rep. Mitch Boggs, R-LaRussell, felt that Rehder’s bill does not fix the problem. He’s concerned that this bill gives the government the excuse to “intrude” in family marriage.

“I just have, I have some deep concerns with us as a government going another step farther into someone’s life because, like I said, they can live together, they can do all these other things, it’s just this, we’re, you know, marriage that we’re addressing here, so it’s not going to fix the problems, I feel,” he said.

Fraidy Reiss, with Unchained At Last, which supports women who want to leave arranged and forced marriages, supports Rehder’s bill.

“If that 16- or 17-year-old does not want the marriage, there is nothing that that teen can do,” Reiss said. “There’s nothing that the clerk can do. We are also direct service providers at Unchained At Last. We have worked with girls who have showed up sobbing and begging for help at the clerk’s office. That doesn’t matter. That marriage is happening. The signature is a death sentence.”

The legislation does not affect any marriages that have already taken place.

The committee could vote on the bill soon.

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