Kansas lawmakers consider bill to restrict child marriage

Capitol Bureau

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT)— Kansas lawmakers are considering a proposal to raise the minimum age for marriage in the state to 18.

The bill would require all persons to be 18 years of age to give consent for marriage and eliminate exceptions to that requirement. Lawmakers in the state’s House Federal and State Affairs committee heard from supporters of the measure on Friday.

Lauren Van-Wagoner, who married at age 17, shared her experience as a child bride.

“I was thinking of the short term: no curfew, signing my own permission slips, and
the freedom to make my own schedule,” Van-Wagoner said. “I wasn’t prepared for the long-term effects of that marriage.”

Van-Wagoner married her 21-year old boyfriend at the time. Her marriage lasted 12 years, where she said she suffered from multiple forms of abuse, lies, and deceit.

She said after they divorced, she was left trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces.

“I was kind of left on my own to figure out what to do as a single mom to four kids, how we were going to survive, how I was going to financially take care of us when I’d never had a job, and didn’t have a college degree, so I kind of just had to rebuild our entire life,” Van-Wagoner told Kansas’ Capitol Bureau.

According to Unchained At Last, an organization dedicated to ending child marriage, 70-80% of marriages before age 18 end in divorce and 77% of these marriages involve minor females being married to adult men. Between the years 2000 and 2010, 2500 minors were married in the state.

In Kansas, the age of consent is 18 years old, but a person can marry at 16 years of age with parental consent. Children that are 15-years old can marry with judicial approval.

This proposal would make sure that no one under 18 years of age is allowed to marry in the state.

No action has been taken on the bill yet.

Click here, to watch the full hearing.

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