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Minnesota Senate votes unanimously to ban child marriages, Walz signature anticipated

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Fraidy Reiss, executive director of nonprofit Unchained At Last, rallied at the Minnesota Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, with others aiming to outlaw marriage of 16- and 17-year-olds. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota is on its way to banning child marriages in the state after a unanimous state Senate vote on Wednesday, May 6.

Under the state's current law, 16- and 17-year-olds are able to wed if they had the permission of their parents or a judge. That will change come August when Gov. Tim Walz signs House File 745 into law.

According to Unchained At Last , an advocacy group lobbying to ban child marriages nationwide, the vast majority of children wed in the United States are preteen and teenage girls married to adult men. Primary author of the bill Sen. Sandra Pappas, D-St. Paul, said on the floor Wednesday that young girls married before adulthood are more likely to experience domestic violence, poverty, lack of education, chronic health conditions and divorce than those who marry after they're age 18.

"In reality, a married child cannot get a divorce, cannot rent an apartment, cannot buy or rent a car, cannot get health care or check into a hospital, cannot open a bank account, does not have access to an inheritance, cannot get a credit card, cannot even stay at a battered women’s shelter," Pappas said. "A married child cannot help herself or her children."

There was little floor discussion before the Senate's unanimous vote on Wednesday. Pappas clarified that if someone who was married before adulthood — whether in another state or country — moves to Minnesota, their marriage would be recognized in the state. But the state will not recognize Minnesotans' childhood marriages from here on out if they are a resident and they travel out of state in a direct attempt to circumvent the law.

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The bill now moves to Walz's desk for his anticipated signature.

Mearhoff is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. You can reach her at smearhoff@forumcomm.com or 651-290-0707.
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