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Missouri Bill to End Child Marriage Fails to Pass in House

- Total Ban on Child Marriage Rejected by Missouri House

Missouri’s child marriage laws will remain unchanged for another year despite widespread support for a bill that would have raised the minimum age for marriage to 18.

The legislation, which sailed through the Senate with near-unanimous approval, was stalled in the House due to opposition from a small group of Republican lawmakers who argued it would infringe on parental rights and constitute government overreach.

Under current Missouri law, 16 and 17-year-olds can get married with parental consent, while those under 16 are prohibited from doing so. The proposed bill aimed to ban marriage for anyone under 18, bringing Missouri in line with 12 other states that have already enacted similar laws.

Missouri Lawmakers Fail to Pass Legislation Ending Child Marriage

Republican state Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, who sponsored the bill alongside Democratic Sen. Lauren Arthur, expressed surprise and disappointment at the House’s failure to pass the legislation.

Rehder and Arthur argued that banning child marriage should not be a controversial issue, as it is essential to protect young girls from forced marriages that can have severe and long-lasting consequences. Arthur noted that the failure to pass the bill makes Missouri look bad and fails to protect vulnerable minors.

Rehder suggested that House Speaker Dean Plocher refused to allow the bill to move forward to avoid embarrassing Republican opponents despite having the necessary votes to pass it.

The bill’s failure has drawn criticism from activists, including Fraidy Reiss, who founded the nonprofit Unchained at Last to combat forced marriage.

Reiss argued that the decision will subject dozens of teens to human rights abuse and legal trafficking under the guise of marriage in the coming year. Rehder remains hopeful that the bill will succeed next year, thanks to public pressure and growing awareness of the issue.

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