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Colorado Court Rules Girls Can Marry at 15

Judges Say Law Permits Even Younger Brides and Grooms




APColorado Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald said she was appalled by the ruling. "That's a child. You're taking advantage of an undeveloped person," she said.



DENVER (June 15) - A 15-year-old girl can enter into a common-law marriage in Colorado, and younger girls and boys possibly can, too, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.


While the three-judge panel stopped short of setting a specific minimum age for such marriages, it said they could be legal for girls at 12 and boys at 14 under English common law, which Colorado recognizes.


Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald said she was appalled by the ruling and said lawmakers need to look at the issue next year when the Legislature reconvenes.


"That's a child. You're taking advantage of an undeveloped person, putting them in a situation that's for life. That's something we need to take a look at," the Democrat said.


The ruling overturned a lower-court judge's decision that a girl, now older than 18, was too young to marry at 15.


The panel said there was no clear legislative or statutory guidance on common-law marriages, and that Colorado courts have not determined an age of consent.


For traditional ceremonial marriage, Colorado law sets the minimum age at 18, or 16 with parental or judicial approval.


Colorado is one of 10 states, plus the District of Columbia, that recognize common-law marriage, which is based on English law dating back hundreds of years.




"It appears that Colorado has adopted the common-law age of consent for marriage as 14 for a male and 12 for a female, which existed under English common law," the ruling said. "Nevertheless, we need only hold here that a 15-year-old female may enter into a valid common-law marriage."


The appeal was filed by Willis Rouse, 38, who is serving time for escape and a parole violation. He argued that he and the girl began living together in April 2002 and applied for a marriage license a year later.


The girl had become legally independent by then, but her mother also consented to the marriage and accompanied the girl and Rouse to obtain a license, the ruling said.


A judge invalidated the marriage, saying anybody under age 16 needed judicial approval for either common-law or ceremonial marriage.


While Thursday's ruling found that the girl was old enough to marry, it did not conclude whether she and Rouse have a valid marriage. The court sent the case back to the trial judge to make that determination.

(This message has been edited by OldGreyEagle)

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Ok then if they can enter into marriage at 12 that means that they can sign legal contracts at the same age. Most states say that is your are old enough to marry you are old enough to sign a binding contract.

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Common law marriage! They can live together! While I don't agree, it's not the same as being legally married.


12 huh! WOW! I don't think I even liked girls when I was 12!


Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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Didn't Kansas just fix their law? Raised it from 12 to 15 or 16?

Personally, I don't think anyone should get married until they are at least 21. Let them date until then and mature. Probably would solve a lot of divorces and "starter marriages".

Its a big commitment.

BTW, I was married at 22 and just passed my 21st anniversary. And all of those years to the same woman!

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Actually Ed, in Colorado, common law marriages have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as religious or civil marriages. The only difference being one has a ceremony with a legal document and the other doesn't have either. But a common law wife has the same rights as a "conventional" wife.


A case came up a few years back when a couple wanted to split up. The man claimed they were never married. The woman claimed they satisfied the common law marriage statues and required a divorce to split assets and assert her rights. I believe he even ended up paying her alimony too.

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As a former teacher, I have witnessed students with babies at 12 and 13. People congratulate the happy parent and go gaga over the babies. Few bother to cast a shadow of condemnation or even ask questions about financial resources, marriage, the absent Father, health care, or if they will finish their education. It is expected that Medicaid, Welfare and other Social programs like grandparents will fill the void. The Church people are the happiest because another child of poverty is alive and well, so marriage at 12 is exactly what the anti-abortion crowd has longed for all of these years. It is a high water mark. A celebration is in order.

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Does this mean we have to let them share a tent?


I have a few friends whose daughter got knocked up and they welcomed the little mother, the sperm donor, and baby into their home to live. I've told both of my sons that if they got some girl preggers, they would be instant adults and on their own. Get a job and pay for what you did...at least for the next 18 years. Thank God I never had to make good on my threat, and the only thing that calls me Grandpa is a new Maine Coon kitten that my son just brought to see us.


I am pro-life...as long as they can pay their own way.

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Just because someone is mature enough to "make" a baby, doesn't mean they are mature enough to raise a baby. I am pro-life and I disagree with these young single moms who keep their babies. I strongly feel they should put their baby up for adoption into a 2 parent family where the child will get the chance to have both a mother and father in his/her life. Currently, there are 3 legal choices for a new mother to make concerning her baby. Keep it, adopt it out, or abort it. I'm surprised that people think that most pro-lifers would choose "keep it" over "adopt it out."


One of my former students, who is mildly mentally retarded, became pregnant at age 15. I happened to be pregnant at the same time, at age 32. Talk about weird! Her mother and step-father insisted that she keep the baby, in order to take responsibility for her mistake. That meant that this poor baby was to be punished for the parents' and grandparents' choices.

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Actually, I think the Court brought the matter to a public policy head.


Even the US Supreme Court from time to time refers all the way back to English Common Law in its decisions. Read the slip opinions at their website. It's kinda neat to see how the Justices mix and match, depending on whether the issue is contractual, criminal, or tort.


Getting back to Colorado, I think Ms Fitzgeralds comments are appropriate. The underlying message I received from her was this does not feel right for the modern age; we need to enact modern legislation. (emphasis mine)


Think about it for a moment. A century ago, a bachelor's degree (or greater) put you in an educational elite. High school education would take you far in the world, and many common laborers had but an 8th grade education. Now, we advocate lifelong learning, and we work very hard to keep youth from dropping out of high school.


A millenium ago, lives were short, and there were no modern tools and automation aids, save perhaps the millrace for a saw or grindstone. With a huge infant mortality rate, adulthood and responsibility for family came early. Folks did wed and have children before they were 20, and big families were the rule not the exception.


The magic question is do we need the underpinnings of English Common Law anymore? When we do not, are we willing to invest the legislative energy to put modern law on the books?


I think what Colorado intends to do next year is the right thing.


(Edited for clarity)(This message has been edited by John-in-KC)

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"I am pro-life as long as they can pay their own way."


At age 12? At age 13? Most 18 year olds with high school diplomas have a difficult time paying their own way. The world is more complex and making a living cannot be done with a minimum wage entry level job, which is another term for poverty.


I suggest that abortion be outlawed and when a baby is born that both sets of grandparents be held legally responsible for the health and welfare of the newborn until their own children reach age 18 and have completed post high school training, which the grandparents pay for also. In the case that the grandparents fail to pay, then any Church that is within driving distance will pay for all of the bills that the grandparents do not or cannot pay. This law is a reasonable trade-off, one that fits the crime. FB


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"Church people are the happiest because another child of poverty is alive and well, so marriage at 12 is exactly what the anti-abortion crowd has longed for all of these years."


What church would that be? I am familiar with churches that teach that abortion is wrong, but I hadn't heard of the one that promotes unwed motherhood, or childbearing at age 12.


Personally, I think the Colorado court's decision was not well-reasoned. If the legislature set a minimum age for marriage of 16 (and even that required parental consent), I think that should have been held to modify the common law with respect to the minimum age of common law marriage that could be recognized. It should be a pretty easy legislative fix, anyway. Maybe this was just one of those hard cases that make bad law.

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That's my point, Fuzzy. If you can't support a child, then it should be a crime to produce one. And I agree with your solution. Parents should be responsible for the actions of their minor children, including supporting the children of their minor children. That's the way it is in "less civilized" countries.


Confiscating the money of taxpayers to pay for their lack of self-control is abhorrent.

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