Idaho Statesman, Jan 21, 99--A2

House panel seeks to raise legal marriage age to 16

SALT LAKE CITY--A state House committee on Wednesday approved a bill amid at cracking down on child marriages, one of the frequent abuses in polygamy, by raising Utah's marriage age to 16 years in most cases.

House Bill 46 now gives to the full House for consideration. The measure's approval followed widespread publicity about the case of a 15-year-old girl who said she was beaten by her father for fleeing an arranged polygamous marriage to her uncle.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Carl Saunders, R-Ogden, would still allow 15-year-olds to marry when a judge deems a marriage is in the best interests of the child, the marriage is voluntary and both parties have completed premarital education. Pregnant girls also would be required to be referred for counseling, including the option of adoption.