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Child marriage protects predators, must end, former bride tells Kentucky lawmakers

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A Kentucky Senate panel heard testimony last week from a woman who says she was coerced into marrying at age 16. She urged lawmakers to pass legislation making marriage only for adults — and curb an endemic child-marriage problem in the state.

Donna Pollard, 34, who got pregnant a year after she got married, said she was pressured into wedlock with an abusive and violent man of 30 who first approached her when she was 14, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

The man, or “perpetrator” as she called him, was working at a treatment center supposedly providing mental health counseling. Soon the relationship turned sexual and she was encouraged by her mother – herself a bride at 13 – to tie the knot.

“The clerk didn’t even look up at me from her computer. She only asked: ‘Which one’s the minor?’ She didn’t assess if I was safe or needed something.”

– Donna Pollard, victim of child marriage.

“The clerk didn’t even look up at me from her computer. She only asked: ‘Which one’s the minor?’ She didn’t assess if I was safe or needed something. He was 30 years old at the time, but nobody questioned the fact that he was so much older,” Pollard told the Guardian.

Shortly after marrying, Pollard tried to flee her abusive husband and go to a domestic violence shelter, but because she was a minor she was turned away. Pollard also tried to rent a place to live but no one would let her because she was a minor.

“I felt just completely and totally trapped,” Pollard told Kentucky Senate Judiciary Committee last Friday.

“I’m frankly embarrassed that Kentucky doesn’t have such law.”

– Kentucky state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr

She is now advocating for legislation that would raise the required age for marriage in the state from 16 to 18 and create protections for underage girls to prevent coercion.

“I’m frankly embarrassed that Kentucky doesn’t have such a law,” Republican state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr told the Courier-Journal. She claims the existing law “plays into every negative stereotype about Kentucky.”

Various studies show Kentucky having the third-highest rate of child marriages in the country. Texas is first, although it recently passed a law raising the age limit of marriage, and Florida is second.

Last year, then-Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey came under fire after refusing to sign a bill that would have banned child marriage in that state, saying it would trample religious freedoms, Reuters reported.

Roughly 200,000 children were wed between 2000 and 2015. But contrary to popular misconceptions, less than 10 percent of child marriages in Kentucky are between two teenagers – the rest are between a teen girl and an older man, Jeanne L. Smoot of the Tahirih Justice Center told the Courier-Journal.

“Teens marrying teens is not the case,” she said.

Such marriages often include “child brides,” Smoot said, meaning underage girls pressured into marrying older men as a way to hide evidence of their sexual relationship with a girl who cannot legally consent to sex.

“Pregnancy can be a red flag that a girl has been raped,” she said.

Kentucky state Sen. Julie Raque Adams is sponsoring a bill that would increase the legal age for most marriages in the state to 18.

The bill would let 17-year-olds marry with a permission of a district judge, but only if the age difference between the teen and the other party is fewer than four years.

If it passes, it will be the first update to Kentucky’s law since 1998, when the required age for marriage was raised to 16.

“I’m hopeful,” Pollard said about lawmakers passing the bill. “We have to stop giving predators the opportunity to hide their offenses behind a marriage license.”

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.



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Earn our trust! Brexit row heats up as EU issues fresh warning to UK – anger at Lord Frost

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THE Northern Ireland Protocol must be “implemented in full”, an EU Commissioner has insisted, as the spat between Brussels and London over the key part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement drags on.

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Obama slams GOP plan to filibuster voting rights bill

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Former President Barack Obama on Monday called the filibuster a “tool for obstruction” and urged Republican senators not to use it to block a key vote on the For the People Act voting rights bill this week.

“Republicans in the Senate are lining up to try to use the filibuster to stop the For the People Act from even being debated,” Obama said during a tele-town hall with former Attorney General Eric Holder and grassroots activists about the bill, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will put to a procedural vote Tuesday to take up the measure. That motion is not expected to receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and proceed to the bill.

“Think about this: In the aftermath of an insurrection, with our democracy on the line and many of the same Republican senators going along with the notion that somehow there were irregularities and problems with legitimacy in our most recent election, they’re suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and figure out a solution on the floor of the Senate,” Obama said.

“That’s not acceptable,” he added.

Obama said the bill isn’t perfect, but he touted several of its provisions, including one that would cut down on partisan gerrymandering. Allowing people in power to manipulate the boundaries of legislative districts had deepened the political divide in the country and made it “so that the incumbents can choose their voters, rather than the voters choosing their elected officials,” he said.

The former president also pointed to provisions mandating early voting and increasing transparency on donations, and noted that Democratic senators have said they’re open to compromises. The bill might undergo changes, but “we as a people should all say Senate, Congress, do something.”

“Whatever else we may argue about, the one thing we should agree on the bedrock idea that we as Americans have been taught to take pride in, this is the fact that we’re a democracy,” Obama said.

“The issue of voting rights might not set off alarms for most of us,” but “the violence that occurred in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th should remind us we can’t take our democracy for granted,” he said.



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Why the U.S. canceled NATO flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan

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