FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - The Kentucky Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would ban most underage marriages in Kentucky.
The sponsor of Senate bill 48, Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, had a message for her colleagues on the floor. “The nation has its eyes on Kentucky right now, eager to see our leaders do the right thing, and pass this legislation to prevent children from abuse and exploitation by ending child marriage.”
She said Kentucky has the third-highest number of child marriages, after Texas and Florida. “Senate bill 48 bans all marriages under the age of 18, with one narrow exception, 17-year-olds who obtain judicial approval after a special hearing.”
Under the legislation, 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be able to receive marriage licenses with the consent of parents alone “because parental coercion could be what’s really taking place,” she said.
It will also end the practice of judges granting a pregnant child under the age of 16 permission to marry, according to Raque Adams. “The days of a 13-year-old girl marrying a 33-year-old man are over.”
Sen. Ralph Alvardo, R-Winchester, a pediatrician, said a 16-year-old needs a father, not a husband, and described something he sees in his practice. “The parents are no longer involved in the lives of their children and a grandparent is involved, and they come in seeking advice on birth control for a 13-year-old.” He said he would like the bill to have an 18-year-old limit with no exceptions.
Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, spoke against the measure, saying young marriages work out sometimes, citing his wife of nearly 56 years as an example. “Her mother was 15 when she married, and when my wife was born. She was married for 25 years. Her husband was wounded in World War II and later died of his wounds at the age of 45.”
Speaking in favor of the bill was Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, who said he originally wondered if this was really a problem, then did some research. “Since the year 2000, there have been 10,941 underage marriages in Kentucky,” he said. “Only seven percent involved two teenagers.”
The bill passed by a 34-3 vote, and now heads to the House.