News 4 Investigates: State bill filed to raise marriage age in M - KMOV.com

News 4 Investigates: State bill filed to raise marriage age in Missouri

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In Missouri it is legal for teens as young as 15 to get married if their parents give permission. Credit: KMOV In Missouri it is legal for teens as young as 15 to get married if their parents give permission. Credit: KMOV
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

What’s the right age to get married?

While it varies for many, Missouri lawmakers are now getting into the business of marriage. This is the direct result of a News 4 investigation that revealed children ages 15, 16, and 17 are getting married in the state, and some are even being brought to Missouri specifically to get married.

Newly elected state-rep. Jean Evans had one major reaction when she viewed our News 4 investigation from July.

“Disgust,” she said.

Especially concerning are cases like this: A father who brought his 15-year-old daughter all the way from Idaho to Kansas City to marry the adult man who'd raped her all because, unlike many other states, it's legal in Missouri for children as young as 15 to wed.

“We don't want to be known for that. We want to be known for the Cardinals, the Royals, the Arch, not something like that,” said Evans.

“Unfortunately, there are parents involved with trafficking of their children. It's not something we want to think about, but it's the truth,” she said.

News 4 ran the numbers from the state. In the past four years, close to 800 16 and 17 year-olds were married in Missouri.  Even 100 15-year-olds entered a marriage contract in that time frame.

Numbers that are upsetting for many reasons, Evans said, but for one, children that age can’t even legally give consent for sex.

“So why would you be allowed to marry them. We are updating our marriage law to be in line with other statutes," she said.

Evans and other advocates believe the young marriage age in Missouri may be fueling sex trafficking in the state.

“Unfortunately there are parents involved with trafficking of their children. It's not something we want to think about, but it's the truth,” said Evans.

She wants other initiatives to combat trafficking too, but as a start, Evans filed a bill at the capitol this week that would raise the minimum age for marriage to 17.

This is one thing we can do as a state to cut down on sex trafficking and protect our children.

Evans has been working with US Congresswoman Ann Wagner on the issue of sex trafficking too.

Count on News 4 to follow this and other big bills filed this year at the state capitol.

Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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