Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What's the Matter with Kansas?

Um, here's one thing:
On Sunday evening, Matthew Koso tipped three ounces of formula into his 5-day-old daughter's mouth, then hoisted her atop his shoulder in hope of a burp. On Tuesday morning, he is scheduled to be arraigned on charges for which the newborn is the state's prime piece of evidence.

Mr. Koso is 22. The baby's mother, Crystal, is 14. He is charged with statutory rape, even though they were wed with their parents' blessing in May, crossing into Kansas because their own state prohibits marriages of people under 17...

Outrage over the case has rippled through this town of 4,800 about 100 miles from both Omaha and Kansas City, and to two state capitals. The governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, embarrassed by her state's status as one of the few allowing children as young as 12 to marry, has said she will propose a raise in the minimum age when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
Where have we heard about kids and sex in Kansas recently? Oh yeah, hyper-conservative state attorney general Phill Kline has been trying to get access to records from clinics with the reported intent of prosecuting "child rape and other crimes in order to protect Kansas children." But no one in the freaking statehouse thought to say that, with or without parental consent, 12 is probably too young to marry?

Don't forget: Kansas has had a Republican majority for almost its entire history, so blaming this on liberals' loose morals won't stick.

Fix this, please.

Update: In the comments, one person wrote that I was being ridiculous and this had simply passed "under the radar" of most Kansas politicians, who will now fix it. Commenter Kim disagreed.
This didn't slip under anybody's radar, and here's why: the Kansas legislature probably punted on this issue a couple of years ago (2003?) when they closed the loophole in common-law marriage. Sneaky people were avoiding statutory rape charges in Kansas by declaring themselves to have been common-law married at the time of the offense. The Legislature caught on and, if I recally correctly, made it so that you have to be 18 to be common-law married.

So nobody thought of raising the age for getting married via a license and a ceremony until now? They were raising the age for one kind of marriage--I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't have given at least passing consideration raising the age for the other kind of marriage as well. In my mind, it amounts to a reaffirmance of the existing law.

I hope this gets pointed out whenever legislators (at least those who were around when the law was enacted) feign surprise at the shockingly low marriage age.
Kim then adds:
The common-law marriage change took effect in 2002. Sebelius had not yet been elected, so she's off the hook.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, as a liberal, I have to say that this is stupid, and yes, they are a red state, but really, it does sound like this passed under their radar, and they will fix it. Horrible, but really a stretch to blame on the Repubs. There is enough real stuff to blame them for, we don't need the distraction.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

They, Anonymouse? We are a red state.

I'm not blaming this on Republicans, but only saying that guys like Phill Kline should stop pretending to take issue with, say, pedophilia in order to push their regressive agenda and fix the loopholes that make this sort of thing legal. Also, Kansas really has been run by Republicans since 1893, when a Republican-led state Supreme Court gave them back the house after the "Legislative War." They've had 112 years to fix things like this.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous ahansen said...

Oh where's your sense of humor?
At least he married her....

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be a little careful with that Pedophile tag, please.

If anyone marrying a 14 year old is pedophile, you and most everyone of us have one bunch of pedophile ancestors. There was a time when the concept of adolescence didn't even exist - people were childs and then at one time became adults. Adolscence, i.e. people who look like adults but are kept rightless as children, is an invention of early modernity.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Well, call me modern then.

A lot of Americans once owned slaves, too. 200,000 soldiers in the Union Army were 16 or under. Let's not forget, either, that when you start looking back into history you find periods of time when 14 was damn near middle age. Marrying at 14 in that situation is a wee bit different.

I know all about the rather recent invention of childhood as an idyllic, stressless time of life, but times do change. If you're 18 or over and you dig 14-year-olds you're a perv.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, guess what? The fundamental right to marry is protected by the same constitutional provision giving 12-year olds the fundamental right to an abortion. Seems to me that we're required to allow both.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Actually, that's not true, Anonymouse.

The fundamental right to marry was first described by the Supreme Court in Skinner v. Oklahoma to be based on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

In Roe v. Wade, the Court found that an individual's right to privacy was being infringed upon. While that right emanated from the 14th Amendment, it did not come from the Equal Protection Clause but from the Due Process Clause as described in Griswold v. Connecticut.

Is this splitting hairs? Not at all. Just as the First Amendment has four separate clauses which would almost never apply to a single case at the same time.

It should be also said that, in Roe, the court specifically said that the right to an abortion "is not unqualified and must be considered against important state interests in regulation." It's not quite as "fundamental" as you suggest.

As for marriage, the civil side of the coin is that marriage is also a legal contract and, while they can't keep you from marrying indefinitely, states can set the age at which they consider you capable of entering into contracts.

I know you were just being a wiseass, but I wanted to make sure you knew why you were wrong.

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget: Kansas has had a Republican majority for almost its entire history, so blaming this on liberals' loose morals won't stick.

Of course, the book whose title you appropriate for this post notes that a hundred years ago, Kansas was a blazing hotbed of populist progressivism. And decades ago in this country's heartland, Republicans were not the party with the greatest stake in social conservatism.

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first commenter is wrong. This didn't slip under anybody's radar, and here's why: the Kansas legislature probably punted on this issue a couple of years ago (2003?) when they closed the loophole in common-law marriage. Sneaky people were avoiding statutory rape charges in Kansas by declaring themselves to have been common-law married at the time of the offense. The Legislature caught on and, if I recally correctly, made it so that you have to be 18 to be common-law married.

So nobody thought of raising the age for getting married via a license and a ceremony until now? They were raising the age for one kind of marriage--I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't have given at least passing consideration raising the age for the other kind of marriage as well. In my mind, it amounts to a reaffirmance of the existing law.

I hope this gets pointed out whenever legislators (at least those who were around when the law was enacted) feign surprise at the shockingly low marriage age.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Damn. Good point.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Kim said...

The common-law marriage change took effect in 2002. Sebelius had not yet been elected, so she's off the hook.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Of course, the book whose title you appropriate for this post notes that a hundred years ago, Kansas was a blazing hotbed of populist progressivism. And decades ago in this country's heartland, Republicans were not the party with the greatest stake in social conservatism.

Anonymouse, I give you that, but it's still true that, though the party may have changed from a progressive one to a regressive one, it was still the responsibility of that party -- as the party in charge -- to change things like this.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terry, I'm not wrong. See, for example, the Zablocki decision from 1978, which describes the right to marry as protected by the right to privacy. See also the Casey decision, which refers to the rights protected by that decision as "fundamental".

Paying for an abortion is entering into a legal contract. Saying that it's a contract doesn't remove constitutional scrutiny.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Good God! They're still based on two separate clauses of the 14th Amendment!

There's a clearer standard of privacy in the issue of medical decisions, so, yeah, there is a difference between a marriage contract and a business contract for a medical procedure.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terry, where exactly is that "right to privacy" clause in the 14th amendment?

You've been bluffing, haven't you? You've no fucking clue what you're spouting off about, do you? Tell you what, you go read a little law and then come back and spout off about it, but don't go contradicting someone who actually knows what he's talking about on the subject.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

You can act like you don't know what I'm saying all you want, Asshat.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweet merciful God! Molesting children is not a freaking constitutionally protected right event if you try to legitimize it with marriage.

For the asshat, on the Right to Privacy: http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/topics/personal_autonomy.html

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terry, no, you fucking nimrod, they aren't based in two separate clauses. If you'd actually read the case I cited to you--or if you'd asked someone to read it to you, and they were willing, you know that the right to marry is a fundamental right protected by the due process clause of the 14th amendment, and has been for quite some time (perhaps since Loving, though the discussion in Loving is dicta).

5:32 PM  

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