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Archive for Tuesday, February 14, 2006

House advances bill to tighten marriage age requirements

February 14, 2006

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— Prompted by the case of a Nebraska man who impregnated a 14-year-old girl and then married her in Kansas, a bill banning marriages of anyone under age 16 should win easy approval in the House.

The bill, requested by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, gained first-round approval Monday after no one voiced opposition. A final vote of approval, expected today, would send the measure to the Senate.

"The consensus was that the age was too low, and when people found out how low, there was a certain amount of embarrassment," said House Speaker Doug May, R-Topeka. "I see no problem with it passing."

Under the bill, nobody under age 16 could be married in the state. The measure also says anybody age 16 or 17 may marry if they have the permission of one parent and a district court judge, both parents and any legal guardians, or just a judge if there are no parents or guardians.

The legislation was prompted by a case where a 22-year-old Falls City, Neb., man got a 14-year-old girl pregnant and then married her last year in Hiawatha, Kan.

The girl's mother gave permission for the couple to get married in Kansas, after the girl became pregnant. People must be at least 17 before they can marry in Nebraska, but Kansas doesn't have a minimum age if there's parental or judicial approval. If only one parent approves, a district court judge also must approve.

On Feb. 7, Matthew Koso, now 23, was sentenced to 18 to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to a sexual assault charge. Officials said probation wasn't an option because Koso continued to have sexual relations with his underage wife. Nebraska law prohibits people 19 or older from having sex with those under the age of 16.

The girl and Koso started dating in summer 2004 when she was 13 and he was 21. They had met a year earlier.

Nebraska Atty. Gen. Jon Bruning's office says it has no plans to file additional charges against Koso if he is released from prison and returns home to his underage wife.

Koso could be released from prison as early as November.

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