Waldlaw Blog

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Nebraska Recognizes Underage Marriage from Kansas

A headline caught my eye this morning. It read: "Nebraska charges man, 22, with having sex with girl, 13, whom he married in Kansas." The story explains that Nebraska law requires people to be at least 17 before they can marry. "Kansas law, however, sets no minimum marriage age, although case law sets the minimum age at 14 for boys and 12 for girls." What struck me about this article was the following paragraph: "'The idea ... is repugnant to me,' said Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning. 'These people [the girl's parents] made the decision to send their ... 14-year-old daughter to Kansas to marry a pedophile.' The marriage is valid, thanks to the 'ridiculous' Kansas law, 'but it doesn't matter,' he said. 'I'm not going to stand by while a grown man ... has a relationship with a 13-year-old -- now 14-year-old -- girl.'" Aside from the "repugnance" of this entire situation, it tells us a lot about how we in this country view marriage -- at least marriage between a man and a woman (or, in this case, a girl). Here is a couple who live in Nebraska and apparently wanted to marry, but Nebraska law precluded them from doing so. So what did they do? They went across state lines to Kansas, specifically to evade the marriage laws of their home state, and got married. And Nebraska apparently agrees that "the marriage is valid" in Nebraska, even though they find it sufficiently offensive to be prosecuting the young man for first-degree sexual assault, punishable by up to 50 years in prison. This is how we handle marriage in the United States. Each state has its own laws about who can marry, but as Americans we are free to travel from state to state to find the jurisdiction that best supports the marriage we've chosen, then return to our home state and have that marriage honored. Unless, of course, we're gay. Get my point?


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