Metro-East News

50 Missouri lawmakers vote against bill to curb child marriage

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The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill Monday night that seeks to curb child marriages in the state — even after 50 lawmakers voted against it.

The bill bars marriage for state residents 14 and younger and passed 95-50. But the opposition was a large increase from the single 'no' vote the bill received last year.

Missouri has been cited as having one of the highest rates of child marriage in the country, which some say makes the state a haven for sex trafficking and child exploitation.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch cited a study by the Tahirih Justice Center that says 7,342 teens under 18 were married in Missouri from 2000 to 2014. The abuse-prevention group also cites Missouri as having one of the highest child-marriage rates in the nation.

Under current Missouri law, a 15-year-old can marry a 30-year-old as long as they obtain permission from a parent. Those younger than 15 can legally marry with the approval of a judge.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jean Evans, R-Manchester, would change the law to require minors between 15 and 17 to gain a judge's approval in order to marry, while 17-year-olds would need parental consent.

The bill would also ban marriage licenses from being issued to those who are 14 years old or younger.

Kaley Johnson: 618-239-2526, @KaleyJohnson6