These Michigan Republicans Voted Against Child Marriage Ban | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

A handful of Republican Michigan representatives voted against legislation that would prohibit child marriages in the state.

While the bill package—House Bill 4293 through House Bill 4302—was overwhelmingly approved in the Michigan House of Representatives on a vote of 104-5, child marriage is still legal in Michigan. Lawmakers in the state Senate are expected to vote on their own versions of the legislation soon, the Detroit Free Press reports. It’s unclear when the upper chamber will take up the issue, but until legislation advances through both the House and Senate and is signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, child marriage will remain legal in the state.

Michigan has come under mounting scrutiny in recent years from human rights groups regarding the legality of child marriages, with many denouncing “loopholes” within state law that make it so there is no minimum age to marry, under certain conditions. A report by Unchained at Last, a nonprofit dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the U.S., found an estimated 5,426 minors were married in Michigan between 2000 and 2021, and more than 300,000 nationwide. The group reports that the youngest age of a child married in Michigan is 14.

Representative Angela Rigas yells at Donna Lasinski, Michigan minority leader and not pictured, at the Michigan State Capitol on October 12, 2021, in Lansing. Rigas on Wednesday was among five GOP state representatives who voted against a bill package to ban child marriage. Nic Antaya/Getty

Last year, Human Rights Watch gave Michigan the lowest score of an F on its assessment of the U.S. states’ treatment of children. A huge factor, the advocacy group said, was Michigan’s allowance of child marriages. At the moment, 16- or 17-year-olds can get married in the state with written consent of a parent or guardian. Probate judges can also give children 16 or younger permission to marry under current law. The two bills approved in the House aim to raise the age to 18 and abolish child marriage.

Newsweek has reached out via email to all five GOP lawmakers who voted to reject the ban.

Nationwide, child marriage is legal in 42 states, 20 of which don’t have a minimum age requirement, according to Equality Now, a human rights advocacy group. Despite a global push with the United Nations declaring child marriage a human rights violation, the only eight states that have no-exception laws mandating 18 as the minimum age are Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Wednesday’s vote in the Michigan House comes after other efforts to ban child marriage fizzled out. Several state Democrats said they have been working to raise the minimum age to 18 for years, but several past proposals have stalled.

The latest attempt passed resoundingly in the lower chamber, but still had some opposition with GOP Representatives Steve Carra, Neil Friske, Matt Maddock, Angela Rigas and Josh Schriver all voting against the bill package.

“This is a harsh law based on an ideology that removes reasonable options for any exceptions for people who want to marry before 18—like my wonderful mother-in-law,” Maddock said in a statement.

Maddock also defended his vote against the child marriage ban legislation to Newsweek.

“Elementary schools can talk to our kids all day about trans-sexualization but high-school sweethearts can’t consider marriage now,” he told Newsweek via text. “I don’t see the hypocrisy here.”

When asked in a follow-up question why teenagers couldn’t wait a few years to tie the knot, he responded: “So a 17-year-old is mature enough to cut off their penis or breasts and change their biology but are unqualified to make a commitment of marriage?”

Maddock pushed back against supporters of the bill package who say the status quo offers loopholes for predators to marry children.

“This bill does not stop any predator. It stops marriage,” he said. “Predators don’t care whether or not they are married to their prey.”

Rigas, another representative who voted no on making 18 the legal age to marry, explained why she opposed the package on her website.

“My own parents started my family before my mother turned 18,” she said. “If this law existed back then, our family would never even have a chance to exist. Not every person shares our beliefs. We need to allow for personal choices even if we don’t understand why someone would want to make them.”

One of the package’s Democratic sponsors, state Representative Kara Hope, said in an online statement they have “fought for years” to get legislation out of committee that would ban child marriages.

“For years, we couldn’t get a hearing in committee, let alone a vote on the floor,” Hope said. “Our children—especially our girls—deserve better from their leaders.”

Update 06/22/2023, 4:45 p.m. ET: This article was updated with comments from Representatives Matt Maddock and Angela Rigas.

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