Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

02/22/2018 03:15 PM STATE AFFAIRS

Note: the audio and video recordings are distinct records and are obtained from different sources. As such there may be key differences between the two. The audio recordings are captured by our records offices as the official record of the meeting and will have more accurate timestamps. Use the icons to switch between them.

Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
Download Video part 1. <- Right click and save file as

* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ HJR 27 CONST. AM: TERM LIMITS OF LEGISLATORS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
*+ HB 310 MARRIAGE AND MINIMUM AGE FOR MARRIAGE TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
+= HB 152 ORGANIZED MILITIA; AK ST. DEFENSE FORCE TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 152(STA) Out of Committee
          HB 310-MARRIAGE AND MINIMUM AGE FOR MARRIAGE                                                                      
                                                                                                                              
3:54:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS  announced that  the next order  of business                                                               
would be HOUSE BILL NO. 310,  "An Act relating to the minimum age                                                               
of eligibility for marriage."                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
3:55:07 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
The committee took a brief at-ease at 3:55 p.m.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
3:55:48 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MATT  CLAMAN, Alaska  State Legislature,  as prime                                                               
sponsor of HB  310, relayed that by raising  the minimum marriage                                                               
age in Alaska  to 18 with exceptions only  for emancipated minors                                                               
and active military members, HB 310  would put an end to what the                                                               
U.S. has  denounced as a "human  rights abuse."  He  continued by                                                               
saying that  marriage before the  age of 18 correlates  with poor                                                               
life outcomes,  including discontinued education,  increased risk                                                               
of psychiatric  disorders, and  increased risk  of poverty.   For                                                               
those who are happily married at  an earlier age or who are close                                                               
to  someone who  married  young, the  proposed legislation  might                                                               
seem like it would prevent  young people from marrying the person                                                               
whom they love.   He said that in fact,  the proposed legislation                                                               
would  delay rather  than  prevent the  unions  of those  looking                                                               
forward to decades of happy marriage.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN  referred   to  the  Legislative  Research                                                               
Services  (LRS)  Report  18.018 dated  9/15/17,  entitled  "State                                                               
Marriages   Involving  Minors,   2000-2015,"   included  in   the                                                               
committee packet.  He stated that  Table 1 in the report reflects                                                               
the  number of  Alaska marriages  involving minors  that occurred                                                               
from 2000 to  2015.  Table 1 indicates that  the number of minors                                                               
getting married in Alaska  is in decline - from 73  in 2000 to 17                                                               
in  2015.   He maintained  that by  asking an  increasingly small                                                               
number  of  people to  wait  a  couple  of years  before  getting                                                               
married,  Alaska would  protect minors,  who because  of external                                                               
pressure and lack  of legal rights, might  find themselves forced                                                               
into marriages that they are later unable to leave.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN relayed  that 70-80  percent of  marriages                                                               
involving children end  in divorce; and when they  do, because of                                                               
limited  education and  work opportunities,  former child  brides                                                               
and grooms  have few  options for  supporting themselves  and, in                                                               
many cases,  supporting their  children.   He maintained  that in                                                               
those instances, the economic burden falls to the state.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN maintained  that under HB 310,  the hope is                                                               
to bring  an end to  a human rights  abuse that affects  not just                                                               
individuals but society.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
3:57:40 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CERI  GODINEZ, Staff,  Representative Matt  Claman, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, on  behalf of  Representative Claman,  prime sponsor                                                               
of  HB 310,  relayed that  the  intent of  HB 310  is to  protect                                                               
children  from  finding  themselves in  lifelong  commitments  in                                                               
which they have  no say and cannot escape.   She paraphrased from                                                               
the sponsor  statement, included  in the committee  packet, which                                                               
read as follows:                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     Under current  law, Alaskan  minors cannot  vote, serve                                                                    
     on  a  jury,  purchase  a fire  arm,  open  a  checking                                                                    
     account  on   their  own,  file  a   domestic  violence                                                                    
     protective  order on  their own,  or  work without  the                                                                    
     consent of  their parents; yet  they are old  enough to                                                                    
     be married with parental approval  or a court ruling in                                                                    
     the case  of those under 16.  This places a child  in a                                                                    
     particularly vulnerable  situation where they  could be                                                                    
     coerced into  marrying an  abuser. If  the relationship                                                                    
     is  abusive,  leaving  their spouse  may  be  extremely                                                                    
     difficult.  House  Bill  310 would  protect  minors  by                                                                    
     requiring  them  to  have the  same  rights  as  adults                                                                    
     before getting married.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS.  GODINEZ continued  with a  sectional analysis  of HB  310 as                                                               
follows:  Section  1 of HB 310 [page 1,  lines 8-12] requires for                                                               
marriage a person to be 18  years of age or older, an emancipated                                                               
minor,  or a  member of  the U.S.  Armed Forces  on active  duty.                                                               
Section 2  [page 1, line  14-15] relates to "arrival  at majority                                                               
upon  marriage" and  amends AS  25.20.020  to say  that a  person                                                               
reaches  the age  of majority  when he/she  marries.   Section 3,                                                               
[page 2, line 4] repeals AS  25.05.171, which allows minors 16 to                                                               
18 years of  age to marry with parental consent  and minors 14 to                                                               
15  years of  age to  marry with  judicial approval  and parental                                                               
consent.   Section  4 [page  2, lines  5-8] states  that the  Act                                                               
applies to people married on or after the effective date.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
3:59:17 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  referred to  page 1,  line 9,  which read,                                                               
"emancipated under  AS 09.55.590",  and asked for  the definition                                                               
of "emancipated."                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. GODINEZ  answered that "emancipated"  means the person  is 16                                                               
years of age or older,  living separately from his/her parents or                                                               
guardians, and can prove himself/herself to be self-supporting.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX  inquired  as  to what  was  involved  for                                                               
emancipation; she  asked why a  minor wouldn't just  petition for                                                               
emancipation [to marry].                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS.  GODINEZ expressed  her understanding  that under  HB 310,  a                                                               
minor  could  seek  emancipation  and  if  successful,  file  for                                                               
marriage.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  asked if  that is  a loophole  that almost                                                               
subsumes  the  proposed  legislation;  the  minor  would  not  be                                                               
required   to  be   age  18   but  could   simply  petition   for                                                               
emancipation.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN  explained that the difference  between the                                                               
two is as follows:  to get  emancipated one needs to have a court                                                               
hearing  with a  judge  to determine  if  the qualifications  for                                                               
emancipation  are met;  under HB  310, one  can get  married with                                                               
parental consent without proving self-sufficiency.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked for the  number of children under age                                                               
16 who are married in Alaska each year.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. GODINEZ  replied that  the number each  year is  between zero                                                               
and one.  She clarified that  someone who is emancipated has most                                                               
of the legal  rights of an adult.  She  mentioned that the intent                                                               
of  HB 310  is to  ensure that  people entering  marriage are  on                                                               
equal legal footing with their spouses.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
4:02:14 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked  whether those who are  16 through 18                                                               
years of  age and get  married are marrying against  their wills.                                                               
She related that she  has a friend who was married  at age 17 and                                                               
has  been married  for  30  years; the  friend  had her  parents'                                                               
permission; and she wasn't forced to marry.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  GODINEZ  responded  that  there are  many  cases  of  people                                                               
happily married  at age 16.   The proposed legislation  would ask                                                               
those people to wait a couple of  years so that in the rare cases                                                               
in  which  someone is  being  forced  into marriage  by  external                                                               
pressure  from their  families or  other  parties, that  marriage                                                               
would be prevented.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  summarized by  saying that  although there                                                               
are many  cases in which  people get married  at age 16  who have                                                               
workable  marriages, HB  310 proposes  that they  forego marriage                                                               
for two  years because of  the extremely rare incidence  in which                                                               
someone is forced into marriage.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN  referred to Table  1 of the LRS  Report to                                                               
point out that there are very  few people getting married at ages                                                               
16 and 17, and of those,  the clear majority get divorced and are                                                               
left in  very poor  financial conditions  due to  low functioning                                                               
during the marriage.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
4:04:53 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH cited  the LRS Report to point  out that the                                                               
number of marriages  of those age 17 and under  decreased from 73                                                               
in 2000 to 14 in 2015; it decreased  to zero for the 15 and under                                                               
age group; and there was only 1  in the 15 and under age group in                                                               
the most recent  five years shown on the chart.   He offered that                                                               
half of marriages end up in  divorce regardless of age.  He asked                                                               
whether  minors could  be married  in another  state and  have it                                                               
recognized in Alaska.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN  expressed his belief that  under the "Full                                                               
Faith and Credit Clause" [U.S.  Constitution, Article IV, Section                                                               
1]  a marriage  in Nevada,  for example,  would be  recognized in                                                               
Alaska, if legal in Nevada.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BIRCH  asked  whether   two  people,  who  cannot                                                               
legally  be married  in Alaska,  could travel  to another  state,                                                               
like Nevada,  where it is  permissible to  be married at  age 16,                                                               
then return to Alaska to live.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN  offered that  he believes  that to  be the                                                               
case;  under  the  Full  Faith  and Credit  Clause  of  the  U.S.                                                               
Constitution, Alaska  would have  to recognize the  marriage that                                                               
occurred in Nevada.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BIRCH  asked  whether  there  are  any  religious                                                               
issues  associated with  the proposed  legislation or  whether it                                                               
would  violate any  religious jurisdiction.    He clarified,  "Is                                                               
there a religious exemption?"                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS.  GODINEZ responded  that  the sponsor  has  not received  any                                                               
opposition from religious minorities.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
4:08:43 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP referred  to page 1, lines 11-12,  of HB 310                                                               
and  asked  if  there  is  anyone under  age  18  in  the  active                                                               
military.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN   relayed  that  with   parental  consent,                                                               
someone can join the military at  age 17.  The military exemption                                                               
is  included  for the  occasion  of  someone being  deployed  and                                                               
wanting  to   marry  his/her  sweetheart  before   leaving.    He                                                               
maintained that  there is considerable history  of people getting                                                               
married  just  before  deployment; there  are  spousal  benefits,                                                               
which is an important factor.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP asked  about the language change  on page 1,                                                               
lines  4-5:   the deletion  of "one  man and  one woman"  and the                                                               
addition of "two natural persons".                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN  explained  that was  recommended  because                                                               
that is what the U.S. Constitution requires.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
4:10:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL  asked whether under the  military exemption,                                                               
someone  could enroll  in the  military at  age 17  with parental                                                               
consent  and marry  someone 16  years of  age who  is not  in the                                                               
military.   He asked  whether the exemption  would exist  for the                                                               
16-year-old spouse as well.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. GODINEZ expressed her understanding  that the exemption would                                                               
apply to the underage military enrollee marrying an adult.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL pointed  out that  page 1,  line 11,  states                                                               
that the  member of the  U.S. Armed Forces  may be under  age 18.                                                               
He offered that  a 17-year-old boy [in the military]  can marry a                                                               
21-year-old woman but could not  marry a 17-year-old woman not in                                                               
the military.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. GODINEZ agreed.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN added that if  the 17-year-old woman not in                                                               
the military got emancipated, then the marriage could proceed.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL  asked whether in  the case  of a 16-  or 17-                                                               
year-old  who  has  received emancipation  through  a  judge  and                                                               
really  wanted   to  get  married,  parental   consent  would  be                                                               
necessary.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. GODINEZ replied that in  that scenario, the person would need                                                               
judicial  approval  and  parental  consent.    The  exception  to                                                               
parental consent  is an  extreme case, in  which the  parents are                                                               
unfit to decide the matter.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL  mentioned that his  aunt got married  at age                                                               
16 a  long time ago;  getting married at  a younger age  was more                                                               
common then than today.   He mentioned that marriage right before                                                               
"shipping off to  war" seems a little dated but  conceded that it                                                               
does occur.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
4:13:51 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK referred  to the  document, entitled  "Child                                                               
Marriage in  America Executive Summary," provided  by the sponsor                                                               
and  included  in  the  committee  packet.    He  asked  for  the                                                               
definitions of  "minors," "children," and "adults"  and the lines                                                               
of demarcation for the three groups.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. GODINEZ  expressed her belief  that the words  "children" and                                                               
"minors"  are being  used interchangeably  in  the document,  and                                                               
they refer  to people under  the age of  18.  She  confirmed that                                                               
anyone age 18 to 21 is not a minor.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
4:15:09 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS opened public testimony on HB 310.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
4:15:25 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JEANNE SMOOT,  Tahirih Justice Center  (TJC), testified  that the                                                               
Tahirih Justice  Center is a 20-year-old  national legal services                                                               
organization  that works  with  survivors  of domestic  violence,                                                               
sexual assault,  and other violence  and abuse,  including forced                                                               
marriages.    She  relayed  that  forced  marriages  can  involve                                                               
insidious  forms  of coercion,  not  only  physical violence  but                                                               
extreme psychological abuse and threats.   When that comes from a                                                               
parent or a loved  one, it does have the effect of  "a gun to the                                                               
head" or "shotgun  wedding" for a teenage girl who  is still very                                                               
dependent on her family both emotionally and practically.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. SMOOT stated that TJC  has operated a special forced marriage                                                               
initiative across  the country and  over the past  several years;                                                               
it worked on over 500 cases  involving women and girls across the                                                               
U.S.   The organization  also has  analyzed the  minimum marriage                                                               
laws and  exceptions for  all 50 states  and released  a detailed                                                               
report on  how the current  laws can facilitate  forced marriages                                                               
and other abuses and exploitation in the guise of marriage.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. SMOOT  continued by saying  that based  on the work  that TJC                                                               
has done,  she has flagged  a few  of the concerns  that Alaska's                                                               
current law  poses in  terms of  serious child  protection risks.                                                               
She  stated  that  the parental  consent  exception  can  conceal                                                               
parental coercion;  among the forced  marriage cases,  most often                                                               
the perpetrator  is a parent.   There are many reasons  for this,                                                               
but  sometimes it's  because a  parent just  wants to  be rid  of                                                               
additional  responsibility for  a girl  and to  offload her  onto                                                               
whomever  will  take  her.    She said  that  regardless  of  the                                                               
backgrounds  of these  cases, the  common  vulnerability is  that                                                               
children  lack the  legal rights  and resources  to stand  up for                                                               
themselves and get to safety.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. SMOOT mentioned  that the low age of 14  falls even below the                                                               
state's  legal age  of consent  for  sex, and  combined with  the                                                               
affirmative defense to prosecution for  statutory rape that is in                                                               
Alaska  statute,  it  means  that  as long  as  the  parties  are                                                               
married,  one  can  essentially "roadmap"  a  "work  around"  for                                                               
predators  to access  young  girls that  would  otherwise be  off                                                               
limits.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. SMOOT  stated a third concern  for flagging:  Only  a handful                                                               
of the  minors currently  being married  ever see  a judge.   The                                                               
concern  is  that  the  approval   process  has  only  vague  and                                                               
subjective criteria  and doesn't have other  critical safeguards,                                                               
like  court-appointed counsel  for  the minor.    She said  that,                                                               
unfortunately, for  the reasons she has  stated, Alaska's current                                                               
laws make it far  too easy for a host of horrors  - ones that TJC                                                               
staff see every day - lurking  behind the marriage of an underage                                                               
girl, no  questions asked.   She said, "That  is the crux  of the                                                               
problem  with current  law."   She maintained  that TJC  does not                                                               
know  how many  of the  cases  behind the  statistics are  forced                                                               
marriages   of   children.     Based   on   TJC  work   and   the                                                               
vulnerabilities  staff see,  they  are  very concerned  precisely                                                               
because  the   children  marrying  today  are   marrying  against                                                               
national   trends.     They  represent   particularly  vulnerable                                                               
children  who have  no say  in the  matter and  whose parents  or                                                               
partners are not listening to them ... (indisc.).                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. SMOOT  stated that this year  alone, 15 states have  taken up                                                               
reform bills; 8  more are on the horizon.   Virginia passed a law                                                               
like HB 310, but the year  before the law passed, 182 minors were                                                               
married, including one younger than age 15.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK asked  for  a written  copy  of Ms.  Smoot's                                                               
testimony.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
4:19:30 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS,  after ascertaining  that there was  no one                                                               
else who wished to testify, closed public testimony on HB 310.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS announced that HB 310 would be held over.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HJR027 Sponsor Statement 1.19.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HJR 27
HJR027 ver A 1.19.18.PDF HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HJR 27
HJR027 Fiscal Note-LEG-02-16-18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HJR 27
HJR027 Supporting Document- Letter of Support 2.19.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HJR 27
HJR27 Supporting Document-Letter of Support 2.23.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HJR 27
HB310 Sponsor Statement 2.6.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/6/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/8/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 310
HB310 ver A 2.6.18.PDF HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/6/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/8/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 310
HB310 Fiscal Note DHSS 2.16.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/6/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/8/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 310
HB310 Supporting Document-Child Marriage in America Executive Summary 2.19.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/6/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/8/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 310
HB310 Supporting Document-Child Marriage in America 2.6.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/6/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/8/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 310
HB310 Supporting Document-Minors Married in Alaska 2.6.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/6/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/8/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 310
HB310 Supporting Document-Tahirih Child Marriage Backgrounder 2.6.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/6/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/8/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 310
HB310 Supporting Document- Letter from Office of Victim's Rights 2.20.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/6/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/8/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 310
HB310 Supporting Document- Letters of Support 2.22.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/6/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/8/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 310
HB310 Supporting Document-ACT Support Letter 2.27.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/6/2018 3:15:00 PM
HSTA 3/8/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 310
HB152 Sponsor Statement 4.12.17.pdf HSTA 1/23/2018 3:00:00 PM
HSTA 1/25/2018 3:00:00 PM
HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 152
HB152 ver R 2.13.18.pdf HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 152
HB152 Fiscal Note DMVA 1.20.18.pdf HSTA 1/23/2018 3:00:00 PM
HSTA 1/25/2018 3:00:00 PM
HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 152
HB152 Supporting Document-DMVA Letter of Support 4.12.17.pdf HSTA 1/23/2018 3:00:00 PM
HSTA 1/25/2018 3:00:00 PM
HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 152
HB152 Opposing Document-Letter Lawrence Wood 4.12.17.pdf HSTA 1/23/2018 3:00:00 PM
HSTA 1/25/2018 3:00:00 PM
HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 152
HB152 Additional Documents-DMVA Letter and bill info 4.12.17.pdf HSTA 1/23/2018 3:00:00 PM
HSTA 1/25/2018 3:00:00 PM
HSTA 2/22/2018 3:15:00 PM
HB 152