New law brings changes for child marriage in Kentucky

Published: Jul. 16, 2018 at 4:24 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2018 at 6:04 AM EDT
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Judy Wiegand (Source: Kaitlin rust, WAVE 3 News)
Judy Wiegand (Source: Kaitlin rust, WAVE 3 News)
State Sen. Julie Adams (Source: Kaitlin Rust, WAVE 3 News)
State Sen. Julie Adams (Source: Kaitlin Rust, WAVE 3 News)
Donna Pollard (Source: Kaitlin Rust, WAVE 3 News)
Donna Pollard (Source: Kaitlin Rust, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Recent reports show Kentucky has one of the highest rates of child marriages in the United States, but that's about to change.

Senate Bill 48, introduced by State Senator Julie Adams was passed by the General Assembly and became law today. Adams (R-District 36/Louisville) joined Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw for a news conference to talk about Kentucky's new marriage laws.

The bill includes:

  • Raising the age to 18 years-old for both parties.
  • A 17 year-old may only marry after a thorough court hearing.
  • Marriage by parental permission forms ended.
  • Conclusive proof age required from both parties.
  • Two survivors of abusive childhood marriage shared their joy over the progress.

"It almost felt like this was the door to another dimension that should have been closed a long time ago, but it was still open and this shuts that door," said Judy Wiegand who was married at 13.

Wiegand says she was sexually assaulted by an older man and her parents signed the parental permission form for them to be married. The clerk couldn't do anything about it. She says was like being held hostage since she was not old enough to drive and had no way of escaping.

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It was a sadly similar story for Donna Pollard who was taken advantage of by a 29-year-old man when she was 14. Two years later, her parents signed the forms and Pollard was married at 16. She had to drop out of high school before her sophomore year to work full time.

"Those experiences complied with the abuse I experienced in that relationship, led me to realize, especially when I found the enormous amount of child marriages that occur in the state of Kentucky, that led me to advocate for change and I can't even tell you how glad I am," said Pollard.

Wiegand has since remarried and now has a steady career. Pollard has become a successful advocate for the end of child marriages and has founded an organization, Survivor's Corner. to help abuse victims. For another resource, click the link for the Tahirih Justice Center.

Both Pollard and Wiegand say although the law has passed there are still children trapped in marriages they may not want.

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