Topeka Kansas soon will have a minimum marriage age of 15, prompted by a pregnant 14-year-old from neighboring Nebraska who came to the state last year to marry her 22-year-old boyfriend.
"We have a responsibility to protect young Kansans from harm, and we have a duty to prevent abusers from using marriage as a way to conceal their abuse," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said after signing the legislation Wednesday.
The new law, which Sebelius requested in October, takes effect July 1. Currently, Kansas has no minimum age for marriage if the minor has parental or judicial approval.
It draws the line for marriage at age 15, and then only if a district court judge decides it's in that person's best interest. Those 18 and older won't need permission to marry in Kansas.
Those 16 or 17 can marry if they met one of three conditions: permission from a parent or legal guardian and judicial consent; permission from both parents and legal guardian if the parents are divorced and one parent is married to someone who is the legal guardian; or permission from judge if the parents are dead and there is no legal guardian.
Sebelius had asked for a minimum marriage age of 16 with parental or judicial consent required for ages 16 and 17. Legislators changed the minimum age to 15 and spelled out that nobody under 15 could marry in Kansas for any reason.
In the case of the Nebraska girl - a person must be at least 17 to marry in that state - the girl's mother gave permission for the couple to get married in Kansas last spring after learning her daughter was pregnant. The couple's daughter was born a few months later, in August.
The groom, Matthew Koso, was charged with sexual assault and sentenced in February to 18 to 30 months in prison for impregnating the girl.
Last month, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue set 16 as that state's minimum marriage age after a 37-year-old woman married a 15-year-old boy, a friend of her teenage son. Lisa Lynnette Clark pleaded guilty in March to statutory rape and was sentenced to nine months in prison.