(Source: MIRS.news, Published 03/16/2023) More than 5,400 minors – 11 who were 15 and one aged 14 – were married in Michigan between 2000 and 2021, but a group of Democratic lawmakers hopes to stop that practice.
Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), who first introduced legislation to end child marriage in 2018 when she served in the House, said the former Republican-led Legislature made promises to take up the six-bill package. Some held “symbolic hearings,” or “very fancy press conferences and press releases” saying they would end it.
“Yet, the mostly men with these gavels have chosen not to take action to protect girls in this state,” she said during a morning press conference today. “But today is a new day in the Legislature. … Those of us who now have gavels, who now have the power to uplift girls and women in this state are going to make sure we end this practice … and get multiple bills to the Governor’s desk this year.”
In Michigan, teens aged 16 and 17 can marry with one parent’s permission, while younger children can marry with a judge’s permission.
Although 90% of the minors who marry are girls, there are boys, too, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Unchained at Last. That data shows that 101 minor boys were married to adult women between 2011 and 2021.
Courtney Kosnik was one of those 16-year-olds.
Kosnick was a junior in high school and on track to receive scholarships for pre-medicine when she met a 28-year-old man, whose “little attention” convinced her mother that they should marry.
It took Kosnick 23 years to escape that marriage and when her ex-husband tried to arrange a meeting between their 15-year-old daughter and a 48-year-old man with the intention of marrying, Kosnick became an advocate to stop child marriages.
“His physical, emotional and sexual abuse began on my wedding night,” she said. “I could not find a way out. I realized a month into this marriage that I needed to. I was told I could not file for divorce in the state of Michigan being 17. I went to domestic abuse shelters, I was told to go home, I was a child, I could not go there . . .
“It’s time to stand up and never allow an adult to marry a child,” Kosnick said.
Fraidy REISS, founder and executive director of Unchained at Last and forced marriage survivor, said minors who marry are automatically considered emancipated, but they lack legal rights granted to adults. Marriage also removes their parents’ financial obligations to their child, she noted.
“Perhaps most shockingly, because minors cannot bring a legal action in their own name, they’re not even allowed to seek an annulment independently once they are married off by a parent or a judge,” she said.
The bill package includes, Anthony’s SB 210 and SB 217; Sen. Sylvia SANTANA (D-Detroit)'s
SB 211; Sen. Veronica KLINEFELT (D-Eastpointe)’s SB 12 ; Sen. Rosemary BAYER (D-Keego Harbor)'s SB 213; and Sen. Erika GEISS (D-Taylor)'s SB 216.
The package was referred to the Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.