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Monday, August 27, 2018

Today's the Last Day 15-Year-Olds Can Tie the Knot in Missouri

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 at 6:37 AM

FLICKR/EVAN FORESTER
As of tomorrow, Missouri will no longer have the nation's most lenient laws governing teen marriages.

New laws signed by Governor Mike Parson go into effect Tuesday, August 28. Under the new rules, no one under age sixteen can get married in Missouri, period. And no one 21 or older can marry anyone under 18.



If you're sixteen or seventeen, you may still wed in Missouri under the new rules — but only with your parents' permission.

Previously, Missouri allowed fifteen, sixteen and seventeen year olds to wed, so long as they had permission from one parent. That was true even if the other objected. Anyone fourteen and under had to get a judge's approval.

Those laws, as the Kansas City Star reported in a groundbreaking series earlier this year, made Missouri "the easiest place in America for a fifteen year old to wed." As the paper reported, "From 1999 to 2015, more than 1,000 15-year-olds married in Missouri. Of those, The Star’s review of data shows, more than 300 married men age 21 or older, with some in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Assuming they had premarital sex, those grooms would be considered rapists."

Those rules change tomorrow — despite no small amount of speed bumps in getting there. Earlier this year, a vote in the Missouri House of Representatives on the new provisions actually saw 50 legislators vote "no." At the time, Representative Peter Merideth (D-St. Louis) suggested that some Republicans felt the bill in question infringed on personal freedom and parental rights.

But hey: Backers ultimately got the votes. And now we have just one more day of being the nation's teen marriage backwater. Yay?

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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