Close, but no cigar. A bill that was close to passing this legislative session would have raised the legal age to marry in Missouri. The bipartisan effort from Sens. Holly Thompson Rehder, R-Scott City, and Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, would have banned marriages for anyone under 18 without exceptions.

Currently, in Missouri, you can get married at age 16 with a parent’s consent.

Rehder lamented the fact that House Republicans took such a hardline stance on the issue.

“When you look at the statistics that show for a girl that gets married as a teenager before she’s an adult, the divorce rate is almost 80%,” she told Missourinet. “Why would we do that? Why would a parent knowing that, why would the legislators in this building not want to ban child marriage?”

House Republicans like Rep. Mitch Boggs, R-LaRussell, were concerned that the bill gives the government an excuse to “intrude” in family marriage.

Arthur expressed embarrassment over this stalling in the House of Representatives.

“My friends who are apolitical or live in different parts of the country send me messages and say, ‘What is happening in Missouri?’ It makes Missouri look bad, but more importantly, we are not doing enough to protect young girls who are forced into marriages and whose lives are worse in every way as a result,” she said.

The legislation would not have affected any marriages that have already taken place.

Rehder explained that the issue will be reintroduced next year due to a national push from women’s groups.

“Women want to, number one, help solve the problems that we have with sex trafficking,” she said. “Women, today, in 2024, realize that we have so much more opportunity, our girls have so much more opportunity. We want them to be able to make lifetime commitment decisions when their brains are fully developed.”

Rehder’s reasoning for wanting the bill’s passage is due to the divorce rate being “incredibly high” among couples who got married when they were children.

“It’s shameful, in my opinion, and I think it represents the very ugliest parts of politics and I am hopeful that this is not the last attempt that they make to do right and raise the age to 18,” Arthur added.

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