A majority of child brides drop out of high school and rely on government assistance.
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In the dark before sunrise, high school sophomore Brittany Koerselman, belly bulging, seven months pregnant and feeling like a cow, tucked herself into the borrowed white prom dress that would be her wedding gown. Jeremie Rook, her boyfriend and the father of her baby, was 21.
No place in the United States is easier, The Star found in an analysis of child marriage statutes across the country.
Every other state requires some combination of a judge’s order, parents’ permission, premarital counseling or proof of pregnancy. But in Missouri, brides and grooms as young as 15 can marry with no more than the single approving swipe of their parent’s pen, even if the other parent objects. The result: A review of some 50,000 marriage licenses shows how Missouri’s lax law has for years turned the state into a destination wedding spot for 15-year-old child brides, often rushing to get married.
She was 15, not even old enough to drive on her own.
It didn’t matter how “infatuatedly in love” she was then with everything about Jeremie — his long chocolate hair, his bad-boy attitude, tongue stud and 28 tattoos.Hoping to thwart child marriages and human trafficking, Missouri Rep. Louis County Republican, last year introduced a bill in Jefferson City that would have prohibited marriage for anyone under 17.Time ran out before the bill could make it to the Senate floor. Bill White, a Joplin Republican, pushed for a compromise to accommodate families who believe strongly that children should be born in wedlock.Fifteen-year-old brides face more obstacles: Too young to drive on their own, get full-time jobs or obtain a GED, they can find themselves dependent upon and thus vulnerable to the demands of their spouses or the parent who might have forced them into marriage in the first place. “It was my mother’s great idea,” she said sarcastically.In Missouri, married minors under 18 aren’t even allowed to file for divorce without a parent’s signature.In Iowa, a 21-year-old having sex with a 15-year-old is statutory rape. So on a cold morning in March 2014, she piled into a car with her family and sped south for six hours and 400 miles from Little Rock, Iowa, near the Minnesota border, to get to the one state that possesses the most lenient law in the nation allowing 15-year-olds to wed: Missouri.