Kentucky Bill To Outlaw Child Marriage Stalled By Conservative Lobbying

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In 2018, Kentucky lawmakers are finding it difficult to pass a bill to outlaw child marriages.

State Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville) introduced Senate Bill 48 after she learned that Kentucky has the third-highest rate of child marriage in the country, just below Texas and Florida, according to Insider Louisville. From 2000 to 2015, more than 10,000 children were married in Kentucky, according to the Tahirih Justice Center.

Donna Pollard, a leading advocate for the bill, told the Courier Journal that she was married at 16 to an older man who had sexually abused her since she was just 14. She said she was encouraged to marry by her mother, who had been wed at just 13 years old herself.

She described her former husband as a “perpetrator” who regularly abused her.

“I felt just completely and totally trapped,” said Pollard, who is now divorced.

The so-called “child bride” legislation would bar marriage for anyone under age 17 and require judicial approval for a 17-year-old to wed. Under current law, 16- and 17-year-olds can marry with parental permission, and children can marry even younger when there’s a pregnancy involved, Insider Louisville explains.

Passage of the bill would seem easy enough. But late Wednesday, Adams tweeted that a vote on the legislation had been stalled. She told Insider Louisville that the Family Foundation of Kentucky, a conservative group that lobbies on social issues, had put a stop to it.

SO disappointed! My SB 48 (outlaw child marriage) won’t be called for a vote. It is disgusting that lobbying organizations would embrace kids marrying adults. We see evidence of parents who are addicted, abusive, neglectful pushing their children into predatory arms. Appalling.

– Julie Raque Adams (@jrajra) March 1, 2018

Eileen Recktenwald, the executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, also expressed her disgust.

“This is legalized rape of children,” Recktenwald told the Courier Journal. “We cannot allow that to continue in Kentucky, and I cannot believe we are even debating this in the year 2018 in the United States.”

The Family Foundation of Kentucky argued that the bill “diminishes parental rights,” Insider Louisville reported.

“It takes away parental rights, in terms of parental consent, and gives it to the court,” foundation spokesman Martin Cothran told the news outlet. “So we have a big concern about that.”

Adams said she and other lawmakers are now working on a compromise bill. Cothran said concerns about the legislation should be “easily resolved.”