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



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 Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.

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CEOs discuss pulling donations, additional public statements to fight voting bills



More than 120 CEOs, business leaders, attorneys and experts came together on Saturday afternoon to discuss further action against voting legislation nationwide, call attendees told NBC News.

The group discussed numerous options for pushing back on the GOP-led efforts to restrict access to the ballot box including pulling donations, refusing to relocate business or jobs to states that pass restrictive measures, and moving events, said one of the call’s organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld.

“It was incredibly concrete,” he told NBC News.

The meeting was first reported Sunday by The Wall Street Journal.

A wide variety of industries were represented on the call: financial, pharmaceutical, travel, technology, retail, and transportation. Notable attendees included Brad Karp of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments, Chip Bergh of Levi Strauss and Arthur Blank, Home Depot co-founder and owner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Representatives of AMC Theaters and three major airlines were also in attendance.

Major corporations’ recent foray into the election policy debate comes as Republicans across the country work to advance hundreds of restrictions, changes that voting rights advocates and civil rights groups argue would disproportionately affect voters of color. Earlier this month, several major corporations spoke out against a restrictive new law in Georgia and pending legislation in Texas, while Major League Baseball announced it would move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of the state’s law.

Republicans immediately pushed back.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that it is “stupid” for corporations to take stances on divisive political issues, before warning corporate America to “stay out of politics.” (He softened his stance a day later, saying, “I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are. My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill,” referring to Georgia’s recently enacted law.)

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, called the corporate response “nonsense,” and said American Airlines’ CEO should “go away” after the airline denounced a GOP-sponsored bill under consideration in the state where it is headquartered. Republican lawmakers in Texas advanced another restrictive voting bill out of the state House Thursday.

Sonnenfeld said he and other organizers invited more than 120 CEOs and hoped a dozen would join. Ninety turned out with just 48 hours’ notice — with a few calling in from Augusta, Georgia, where the Masters Tournament was underway — for the 2 p.m. ET call Saturday. Organizers left the Zoom room open after they wrapped up at 3:10 p.m., because attendees were still active in the chat.

“The overriding spirit is they don’t want politicians using wedge issues to try and solidify their hold on office, because that leads to angry communities and finger-pointing workforces and divided shareholders. It makes their job as CEOs harder to manage these constituents. They want social harmony,” Sonnenfeld told NBC News.

The Black Economic Alliance is coordinating a public statement that’s likely to be released this week, said Mike Ward, co-founder of the Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan group that encourages civic participation from businesses.

Ward said he’s helping organizers to follow up with companies on their responses and expects that a number of companies will come out in favor of federal voting legislation in the coming weeks.

House Democrats recently passed a sweeping voting rights bill, the For the People Act, which would create a federal floor of election access and regulations. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised it would get a vote in the full Senate, but its chances of passage are slim because of the 60-vote threshold in chamber currently split 50-50.

Democrats are also expected to reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would update and strengthen the Voting Rights Act, this year.

Sonnenfeld said the call’s strong attendance as a “statement of defiance” against Republican pushback to corporate criticism.

“We had the top brass of American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta. If they’re going to boycott airlines, they better have their own jet,” he said.

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Boris told to rip up Brexit deal as Britain waits for EU ratification – 'Pull plug NOW!'



BORIS JOHNSON has been told to “pull the plug” on the post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union as Brussels continues to drag its feet over ratifying the agreement.

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Furious Nicola Sturgeon lashes out at Boris over Indyref2 – 'Can't stand in the way!'



NICOLA Sturgeon has furiously lashed out at Boris Johnson over a second Scottish independence referendum, as she argued the Prime Minister “cannot stand in the way”.

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