House committee passes watered-down child marriage ban

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The original bill would have outlawed all marriages for people under the age of 18. The new bill bans marriage for children under the age of 16 and places restrictions on marriage for 16-and 17-year-olds.

“It was important to get some first steps,” said Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, a Republican from Scottsdale, who sponsored the measure. “We can always come back next session and make some additional changes,” she said.

[RELATED: Bill to end child marriage in Arizona faces obstacles]

Records obtained by CBS 5 Investigates show a child is married in Maricopa County roughly every three days. It’s an average of 105 marriages per year. In 90 percent of the marriages, the minors or children are girls.

But Ugenti-Rita’s original bill, which would have outlawed all child marriage, hit some road blocks at the state capitol. House Speaker JD Mesnard, Representative Eddie Farnsworth and Ugenti-Rita came agreed on a compromise measure.

[RELATED: Child marriage is still legal in the US]

In addition to banning marriage for anyone under 16, the measure limits marriages for 16-and 17-year-olds to partners who are no more than three years older.

“Similar mindsets, similar experiences, similar power structure, etc. So you don't start to get into the levels of abuse that you do when somebody is 35 and 16,” said Farnsworth, a Gilbert Republican, during Wednesday’s hearing in the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

[MORE: Polygamy Diaries reported by Mike Watkiss]

The measure passed by a vote of 8-1, but opponents of child marriage say they are disappointed the bill was watered down.

Fraidy Reiss, who is the executive director of Unchained at Last, which is working to outlaw child and forced marriage, said the bill does not protect 16-and 17-year-olds, who are the most at-risk of being forced into marriage by their parents.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]

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Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter at CBS 5 News. His career has taken him to every corner of the state, lots of corners in the United States, and some far-flung corners of the globe.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

Morgan’s past assignments include covering the invasion of Iraq, human smuggling in Mexico, vigilantes on the border and Sheriff Arpaio in Maricopa County. His reports have appeared or been featured on CBS News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC and NPR.

Morgan’s peers have recognized his work with 11 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards , two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative reporting, an SPJ First Amendment Award and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. Last fall, Morgan was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle, in recognition of 25 years of contribution to the television industry in Arizona.

Morgan is a graduate of the University of Arizona journalism school and Concord Law School. He is the president of the Arizona First Amendment Coalition and teaches media law and TV news reporting at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he’s not out looking for the next big news story, Morgan enjoys hiking, camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats and spending time with his family at their southern Arizona ranch.

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