Final bill to ban child marriage in Michigan signed by governor ⋆
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday signed the last bill banning child marriage, building off previous legislation signed this year that puts an end to what advocates call a human rights abuse that demolishes the lives of girls.
Michigan joined nine other states in banning child marriage, having been previously one of only a few states with no legal minimum age for marriage.
It took three legislative sessions of introducing bills to get it done, but Unchained At Last Executive Director Fraidy Reiss said this marks a victory for Michigan’s children.
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“Finally, we have ended a human rights abuse and nightmarish legal trap that destroys almost every aspect of girls’ lives,” Reiss, a survivor of forced marriage said in a media release this week from Unchained at Last, which works to advocate for states to ban child marriage.
Reiss told lawmakers in May that Michigan’s laws provides child rapists a “Get Out of Jail” card if they marry their victims, saying current laws create a dangerous loophole to bypass Michigan’s age of consent to sex, which is 16 years old.
Prior to the ban, Michigan law allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to get married with parental consent. Children under the age of 16 required a parent’s consent, as well as permission from a judge.
According to data from Unchained at Last, Michigan saw over 5,400 child marriages between 2000 and 2021, with 95% of children being girls married to adult men.
Whitmer said in a news release Wednesday that the legislation will keep young people in Michigan safe and offer protection to sexual assault survivors.
Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), who has introduced legislation for a ban over multiple sessions, said the bills send a strong message to abusers, that child abuse in any form will not be tolerated in michigan.
“I want to thank the survivors and activists that have been in the arena with me since 2018 to push our state to end child marriage. Standing up for our children should be a nonpartisan issue, but for too long our children, particularly our young girls, have suffered because of this archaic practice,” Anthony said.
Courtney Kosnik, who was married at 16 to an adult man, said in the governor’s media release, she had 30 years of her life taken from her due to child marriage.
“The rights of children are not for sale, and the outdated and misguided practice of child marriage will not be tolerated any longer in Michigan,” Kosnik said. “Thank you to everyone who has worked tirelessly to pass laws here in Michigan and in other states. We are not done, and we will fight on to keep children safe from marriage under the age of adulthood.”
authored by Anna Liz Nichols
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