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Michigan House votes to ban child marriage

Megan Schellong

The Michigan House voted Wednesday to outlaw child marriage.

Michigan law currently lets children 16 and older marry with parental consent. Parents can marry off a child under 16 with a judge’s signature.

Democratic Representative Kara Hope says people are often surprised when they find out.

"It’s not only legal, it’s happening. People had no idea that a 13- or 14-year-old child can get married off to an adult man, and that, that relationship would have the blessing, effectively, of the state.”

Supporters of the bills say sexual, physical and mental abuse often accompanies child marriage.

Rep. Hope says around 5,400 children have been married in Michigan since 2001.

"That might seem like a small number comparatively to our population but for those people, for those kids, it ruins their lives. And we’re letting it happen right now. We have to stop," she said.

The bill package would also address other parts of state law related to the issue.

That includes getting rid of provisions allowing for secret marriage and loopholes in Michigan’s criminal sexual conduct code.

"It’s recognizing bad behavior for what it is, it’s protecting children from sexual abuse that is almost always inherent in those marriage relationships," Hope added.

The Michigan Senate is working on similar legislation. Bills to ban child marriage have stalled in previous legislatures.

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