Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - Recent reports rank Kentucky as having the third highest number of children married in the country.
Senator Julie Raque Adams filed a bill to overhaul Kentucky's lax minimum marriage age laws, which have not been amended for 20 years.
Current laws set no bottom-line age floor below which a child cannot be married, do not take into consideration the age or background of the intended spouse, and let 16- and 17-year-olds marry with a parent's sign-off before a clerk.
Records indicate these laws have allowed 11,000 children to marry in recent years, some of whom were girls as young as 13 marrying much older men.
The proposed new bill will put in place thoughtful safeguards to prevent children from being forced into marriage against their will and protect them from other lifelong, irreparable harm.
This proposed legislation bans all marriage under age 17, and it requires judicial approval of marriage petitions involving 17-year-olds, The bill would also layout criteria for judicial approval.
If the bill were enacted, it would also emancipate a minor approved to marry prior to marriage.
Senator Adams partnered with Donna Pollard, a Kentucky child marriage survivor and Founder of Survivors' Corner, and the Tahirih Justice Center to draft the legislation.
“If you want to prevent the cycles of poverty, domestic violence, and sexual abuse, this bill does that. And if you want to promote the empowerment of girls through education so they have the ability to support themselves instead of becoming perpetually dependent, this bill accomplishes that, as well," said Survivors' Corner Founder Donna Pollard.
This proposed bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and is expected to have a hearing in the coming weeks.