LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Courtney Kosnik’s marriage lasted until she was 40 years old.
She was married just after her junior year in high school, and she says the ban on child marriage was long overdue.
“You can’t say it was better if you weren’t living it, if you haven’t talked to people,” she tells 6 News. “We are giving children and girls the opportunity to grow up and not have to be in an adult situation when they don’t have all of the rights of adulthood. We never have to have a girl call a help line and say I need out because she’ll never have gotten in it.”
This week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the dotted line on the last child marriage bill in the state, banning the practice.
State data shows more than 5,000 minors were married in Michigan between 2000 and 2022.
Kosnik says she was subjected to child marriage, but she’s relieved the law now makes child marriage a thing of the past.
“The high I feel today is equal to the low I felt last December when I testified in front of the Senate and then they let it die,” she says.
Kosnik said that while it was an uphill battle getting to this point, she would do it all over again if it meant protecting a young person from what she had to go through.
“I was married off just after my junior year of high school to a man 12 years older than me,” she says. “That started a 23-year saga of being trapped in this marriage. As a child there are things that we may think we want and very quickly go no this isn’t a good idea and normally as kids we can get out of it, but I couldn’t.”
After nearly six years, and with the help and leadership of primary bill sponsors, State Rep. Kara Hope and State Sen. Sarah Anthony, the minimum age of consent for marriage has been raised to 18 years old, no exceptions.
Both lawmakers represent the Lansing area and shared their excitement about the end of child marriages in a press release from Whitmer’s office.
“I am proud that Michigan has taken the historic step to end child marriage in our state,” said Anthony, a Lansing Democrat. “I want to thank the survivors and activists that have been in the arena with me since 2018 to push our state to end child marriage. Standing up for our children should be a nonpartisan issue, but for too long our children, particularly our young girls, have suffered because of this archaic practice. By signing these bipartisan bills into law, we are safeguarding our youth and sending a strong message that child abuse in any form is not tolerated in our state.”
“I’m elated that children in Michigan will be protected from the archaic, abusive practice of child marriage,” said Hope, a Delhi Township Democrat. “It’s been a long road here, but with Sen. Anthony’s leadership and the support of advocates, we got it done.”
Opponents of child marriage hailed the move.
“Michigan’s former law permitted child marriage with one parent’s permission or if younger than 16, a judge’s approval. Both exceptions created conditions that make educational achievement, satisfying future domestic lives, and economic independence less likely, especially for girls,” says Sheila Blair, President of the American Association of University Women of Michigan. She was quoted in a press release from Whitmer’s office.
“In this century, over 5,400 children were married in Michigan, some as young as 14. Ninety-five percent were girls wed to adult men an average of 4.3 years older. Girls represent 86% of the minor children who were married in the United States. These new laws will bring girls increased educational and economic opportunities,” she continued.
Michigan is now the 10th state in the country to ban child marriage.