After six years of our relentless advocacy, the #Michigan legislature just sent the legislation to #EndChildMarriage over its final hurdle and to Governor Gretchen Whitmer ‘s desk!
If (when) she signs the legislation into law, #MI will become the 10th U.S. state — and the third this year! — where we’ve helped to eliminate a #HumanRights abuse that destroys girls’ lives. #18NoExceptions
Statement from Denise Sylvester, Zonta USA Caucus and Michigan Advocate to End Child Marriage:
The Michigan House and Senate this week overwhelmingly voted to end child marriage in Michigan. #18NoExceptions
This journey to end child marriage started 4 years ago after hearing the horrible stories of a woman who experienced child marriage and another forced marriage at the NAIDM in Dallas.
We found Michigan had no minimum age to marry. But there was a silver light as Representative Hope and then Representative Anthony (now Senator) had introduced bills in the House to end chicks marriage.
In 2019, Barbara and I coordinated an advocacy day for Zontians with a legislative briefing and press conference, we had a solid turn out and shocked everyone we met with informing them that Michigan had no minimum age to marry. The bills went no where. Representative Fuller, a sponsor, wouldn’t release the bills for a committee hearing.
We joined the Coalition to End Child Marriage, led by Unchained at Last, the founder and head – Fraidy Reiss, who’s story moved us in Dallas.
We had subsequent virtual advocacy days, sent in postcards, made calls, attended meetings, put up billboards, had an International Women’s Day event in 2021 attracting over 100 people, 16 days of activism activities, and had Fraidy speak again at a fall conference for Zontians. Barb made sure everyone had a citizen guide who came to fall conference.
In 2022 it seemed like we may have some hope. Senator Roger Victory (who had served on the Great Lakes Leadership program with Anna) introduced companion bills in the Senate and even brought the bills to a vote before the Judiciary committee. They passed unanimously out of committee but there wasn’t time to refer to the entire Senate.
In 2023, bills were once again introduced in the House and Senate to end child marriage. Cherie spoke at the press conference when the bills were introduced. We added on additional sponsors.
In May 2023, the House held a committee hearing on the bills. I spoke at the hearing – an opportunity that but for Zonta, I would not have had. The real experiences of survivors of child marroage brought some of the Representatives to tears. They almost went down a few rabbit holes trying to solve larger issues. Fraidy, who flew out for the hearing and Rep. Hope refocused the conversation.
The Senate held a hearing a few weeks later where Cheryl testified at on behalf of Zonta. One of the Senators asked, “why the hell isn’t this already the law.”
Both committees voted in favor of the bills and referred to the entire House and Senate. The House passed 104-5 yesterday and the Senate passed the bills today. The Senate had some floor amendments to significantly weaken the pending legislation, but was overwhelmingly rejected.
With the passage by both chambers, next up the Governor will sign the bills.
So proud and honored to have been an advocate and leader to eliminate this human rights violation. Thank you to everyone!
Photo: End Child Marriage Billboard by Zonta Club of East Lansing MI.