Gov. Whitmer Signs Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Minors, Support Sexual Assault Survivors in Michigan.

Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation to protect minors in Michigan by preventing child marriage. The bills raise the minimum age to marry to 18 and prevent parents and guardians from consenting to a minor’s marriage. The bills also prohibit minors from being considered emancipated upon marriage and allow a parent or guardian to apply for an annulment of a marriage if one of the married parties was under the age of legal consent.

Additionally, Governor Whitmer signed legislation to protect sexual assault survivors who are married to their abuser. The bill removes a provision in the Michigan penal code that prevents a person from being convicted of criminal sexual conduct solely because their legal spouse is mentally incapacitated.

“Keeping Michiganders – especially young women – safe and healthy is a top priority, and these bills will take long overdue steps to protect individuals from abuse,” said Governor Whitmer. “As a county prosecutor, I went after those who used their power to prey on young people, and as governor, I am proud to sign legislation to sign these protections into law. Together, we can make Michigan a safe and welcoming place for everyone.”

Governor Whitmer signed Senate Bills 56, 209, 212, 213, 216, and House Bills 4202, 4299, and 4300.

Senate Bill 56, sponsored by state Senator Stephanie Chang, aims to lower costs for Michiganders by amending the Michigan Penal Code to remove a provision that prohibits a man and woman who are not married to each other from cohabitating together.

“It’s time to bring Michigan into the current century by repealing the outdated cohabitation prohibition. It simply should not be a crime for an unmarried man and woman to live together,” said state Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit). “By signing this bill today, Governor Whitmer will make it so that more unmarried Michiganders in relationships are on equal footing with others in other states when it comes to their tax status.”

Senate Bill 209, sponsored by state Senator Sarah Anthony, aims to protect minors by prohibiting the marriage of an individual under 18 years of age and voiding any marriage entered into by an individual under 18 years of age.

“I am proud that today child marriage has been outlawed in our state,” said state Senator Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing). “Since first introducing a bill to end child marriage in 2018, I have heard countless stories, particularly from our young girls, of abuse they have endured in marriages they could not by themselves legally consent to. For years, efforts to end child marriage were shelved by those in power, and for years our children suffered. Standing up for children should be a nonpartisan issue. By enacting this law today, we are protecting our young ones and sending a clear message that child abuse in any form is unacceptable in our state.”

Senate Bill 212, sponsored by state Senator Veronica Klinefelt, removes a provision in the Estates and Protected Individuals Code allowing a guardian to consent to a minor’s marriage.

“I am proud to have been part of this monumental legislation. It’s far past time we ban child marriage and protect the children in our communities,” said state Senator Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe).

Senate Bill 213, sponsored by state Senator Rosemary Bayer, removes a provision specifying that a minor is emancipated upon marriage.

Senate Bill 216, sponsored by state Senator Erika Geiss, amends the Safe Families for Children Act by prohibiting a parent from authorizing to consent to the marriage of a child who was under 18 years old.

House Bill 4299, sponsored by state Representative Kristian Grant, would prohibit the use of a marriage license as proof of emancipation.

“It’s long past due that we fix our archaic child marriage laws in Michigan. Under the current rules, it is far too common for teenage girls to marry older men, potentially losing their opportunity for true independence and growth,” said state Representative Kristian Grant (D-Grand Rapids), HB 4299 sponsor.

“With this legislation led by Rep. Hope, and signed by our Governor, we are going to protect our youth from being entangled in a marriage before they are ready. We are going to ensure that marriage is between consenting adults, and not someone who may not be mature enough to make that decision. We are going to protect children from being coerced into marriage by bad actors. This is common sense, and will finally be the law of the land thanks to strong support from both sides of the aisle.”

House Bill 4300, sponsored by state Representative Jenn Hill, would allow a parent or guardian to apply for an annulment of a marriage if one of the parties was under the age of legal consent even if the parties had freely cohabited as husband and wife after reaching the legal age of consent.

“Hearing from survivors of child marriage about what they’ve been through has been devastating and heartbreaking,” said state Representative Jenn Hill (D-Marquette). “For a long time, the government has needed to step in and end this archaic practice to protect the children of our state. I’m encouraged — and relieved — that this legislation has finally become law.”

House Bill 4202, sponsored by state Representative Laurie Pohutsky, aims to support survivors of sexual assault by removing a provision in the Michigan penal code that prevents a person from being convicted of criminal sexual conduct solely because their legal spouse is mentally incapacitated.

“Despite this law being antiquated, it has very modern implications for those seeking justice,” said state Representative Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), HB 4202 sponsor. “After nearly four years of introducing and advocating for the closure of this egregious loophole, I’m grateful that after today, this law will be repealed once and for all.”

Statements from Community Leaders

“This a huge victory for children in Michigan, especially girls,” said Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of Unchained At Last, the survivor-led nonprofit that leads the national movement to end forced and child marriage. “Finally, we have ended a human rights abuse and nightmarish legal trap that destroys almost every aspect of girls’ lives.”

“Zonta International’s District 15 is thrilled that the Michigan legislature approved Senator Anthony’s bill to end child marriage in Michigan,” said Cherie Johnson, Governor of Zonta International District 15. “Assuring that girls are not placed at risk by being forced to marry or being trapped in a marriage they cannot escape is one way of demonstrating Michigan’s commitment to assuring the rights of women and girls are protected. Zonta members are grateful to our legislature and to Senator Anthony for eliminating child marriage and for their efforts to build a better world for women and girls.

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