Arizona governor sent bill that targets child bigamy

PHOENIX — The Arizona Legislature approved a proposal intended to combat the forced marriages of teenage girls in polygamist enclaves.

The bill creating the crime of child bigamy now goes to Gov. Janet Napolitano. It was approved Tuesday in a 25-0 vote by the Senate.

The bill, modeled after a Utah law, would make it a felony for a married adult to marry a child. Other provisions are aimed at holding parents responsible for forced marriages of their children.

The Arizona Constitution already prohibits polygamy. But Arizona’s bigamy law addresses only state-sanctioned marriages, not those recognized only by churches.

Proponents of the proposal say the state doesn’t have a law specifically outlawing child bigamy and that the law is inadequate in holding parents responsible for the forced marriages of their children.

They also say adults can be prosecuted for having sex with a child, but the best authorities can do in holding parents responsible is charging them with misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Opponents say the proposal, SB1335, targets people because of their religious beliefs.

Polygamy is practiced openly in Colorado City, a remote enclave on the state line with Utah that is dominated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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