TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas may have seen the last of its child brides.
After a pregnant 14-year-old from Nebraska drove to Kansas last year to marry her 22-year-old boyfriend, now serving time for having sex with the minor, Kansas lawmakers decided it was time the set a minimum marriage age.
On Thursday, the Kansas House vote 119-0 to approve a bill that would prohibit anyone under the age of 15 from marrying in Kansas and would set strict limits for would-be brides or grooms under the age of 18. The Senate approved it a day earlier, 36-4.
Under the legislation, requested by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a 15-year-old could marry only if a district court judge decided it was in that person's best interest.
Those who are 16 or 17 could marry if they met one of three conditions: permission from a parent or legal guardian and judicial consent; permission from both parents and any legal guardian; or permission from judge if the parents are dead and there is no legal guardian.
Currently, Kansas has no minimum age for marriage if the minor has parental or judicial approval.
In the case of the Nebraska girl — a person must be at least 17 to marry in that state — the girl's mother gave permission for the couple to get married in Kansas last spring after learning that her daughter was pregnant. The couple's daughter was born a few months later, in August.
The groom, Matthew Koso, was charged with sexual assault and sentenced in February to 18 to 30 months in prison for impregnating the girl.
Last month, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue set 16 as that state's minimum marriage age after a 37-year-old woman married a 15-year-old boy, a friend of her teenage son. Lisa Lynnette Clark pleaded guilty in March to statutory rape and was sentenced to nine months in prison.