Republicans Want to Kill Their Own Bill to End Child Marriage

Missouri lawmakers have only two days to pass a bill that would end child marriage in the state, but the proposal is facing resistance from some Republicans.

State Senator Holly Thompson Rehder, a Republican, introduced legislation that would set Missouri’s minimum marriage age to 18. Currently, 38 states across the U.S. allow children and teenagers under the age of 18 to get married, though more states are focusing on efforts to prevent it from happening.

Advocates for ending child marriage say that children do not have the same legal rights as adults who get married and that people who get married before turning 18 are at a greater risk of suffering mental and economic hardships, as well as domestic abuse. Opponents to raising the minimum marriage age have cited concerns about personal freedoms and religious objections.

Missouri law presently states that anyone under 16 can’t get married, but that 16 and 17-year-olds may get married to someone who is younger than 21 if they have consent from their parents.

Missouri child marriage bill opposition
A sign that reads “stop child marriage” is held at a protest in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, on March 6, 2022. Some Missouri Republican lawmakers are holding up a bill that would end child marriage in…

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Thompson Rehder’s bill stalled in the State House Committee on Government Efficiency and Downsizing as several of her fellow Republicans voiced opposition. However, it managed to pass that stage this week, as some of the opponents were absent.

The bill passed the committee by seven to two, according to Clara Bates, a reporter for The Missouri Independent.

Two Republican lawmakers, State Representatives Tony Lovasco and Darin Chappell, voted against the bill, Bates reported. State Representative Lauren Arthur, a Democrat, said the bill “probably would have failed” if the entire committee had been present.

Newsweek reached out to Senator Thompson Rehder, as well as Representatives Lovasco and Chappell, for comment via email.

State Representative Dean Van Schoiack, a Republican who is the committee’s vice chair but was not present for the vote, previously told The Missouri Independent he wouldn’t support the bill because he views it as “government intrusion in people’s lives.”

Thompson Rehder, meanwhile, dismissed concerns about government overreach in remarks reported by the publication.

“To me, a parent should not be signing their child into a lifetime commitment. That’s a decision you make for yourself as an adult,” she said.

In an April 15 legislative column, Thompson Rehder warned that the current law leaves “too many loopholes that make Missouri a prime target for child traffickers.” She said her bill would protect young women from anyone who may use the “loose language” of the law to “corner them into relationships that are troublesome at best, and abusive at worst.”

“This bill removes provisions that change the age based on parental or judicial permissions, making it easy to understand: 18 and above. In Missouri, you must be 18 to sign a legally binding contract. Why should this lifetime legally binding commitment be any different?” she wrote.

The bill previously passed the Missouri state Senate with “practically no opposition,” according to a statement.

Missouri’s legislative session ends on Friday, meaning Missouri lawmakers have only two days to pass the child marriage ban. It remains unclear whether the bill will be called for a vote, and whether a majority of lawmakers will support it.