Kentucky child marriage ban stalled by conservatives

Lobbying group opposed bill clause prohibiting anyone aged 16 or under from being wed

child marriage
An Amnesty International protest against child marriage
(Image credit: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images )

A bill that would ban child marriage in the US state of Kentucky has been delayed by a conservative lobbying group, according to local reports.

The legislation had been expected to go to a vote by the state Senate Judiciary Committee late last week, but part of it was opposed by the Family Foundation of Kentucky, reports the Insider Louisville website.

Under current laws, 16- and 17-year-olds can marry with a parent’s permission, and teenage girls younger than that can wed with a judge’s permission if they are pregnant and marrying the father.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The proposed legislation would prohibit anyone aged 16 or under from getting married, and would require a judge to approve the marriage of those aged 17.

Republican state senator Julie Raque Adams, who proposed the bill, said she was “so disappointed” the vote had been stalled.

“It is disgusting that lobbying organisations would embrace kids marrying adults,” she tweeted.

The Family Foundation of Kentucky insists that it supports the bill overall, and is only opposed to stripping parents of the right to give permission for minors to marry.

“We just want the language cleaned up,” spokesperson Mary Kunze told the Huffington Post. “The compromises have all been made. We’re hoping the bill can come back next week.”

Eileen Recktenwald, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, described the current situation as the “legalised rape of children”.

She told Louisville newspaper the Courier Journal: “We cannot allow that to continue in Kentucky, and I cannot believe we are even debating this is the year 2018 in the United States.”

Kentucky has the third-highest rate of child marriage in the country, behind Texas and Florida, according to women’s rights advocacy group the Tahirih Justice Center. More than 11,000 minors - some as young as 13 - got married in the state between 2000 and 2017, with 84% of the matches between teenaged girls and adult men.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.