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What's the Matter With Kansas?

Posted by Perry on August 31, 2005 at 19:49:49

NY Times Editorial
Published: August 31, 2005

What's the Matter With Kansas?

Matthew Koso, 22, and his wife Crystal, 14, are the parents of a newborn baby and the center of a controversy in their hometown, Falls City, Neb. The couple apparently started dating when Crystal was 12, and after she became pregnant, they crossed over into Kansas, where it is legal for even preteen girls to get married, and tied the knot. The Nebraska attorney general, Jon Bruning, has charged Mr. Koso with statutory rape. But he says a vast majority of the people who have written in to comment on the case say that Mr. Koso did the right thing and that the only fault here lies with the prosecutor, whom they see as a home-wrecker.

The Koso marriage is indeed legal, and that is the fault of the Kansas State Legislature, which should heed a call by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and raise the age as soon as it reconvenes in January. Kansas is not the only state that has failed to fix antiquated laws permitting 14-year-old boys to marry 12-year-old girls if the parents permit; several states, including Massachusetts, have laws that are nearly as ridiculous.

The fact that parents are willing to go along with these unions does not make them right. Chances are that in most of these cases, as apparently happened with Mr. Koso's family, when the parents found out that a baby was on the way, they were eager for the child to be born to married parents. But neither parental nor state approval makes it right to tie a girl as young as 12 to another person in what is supposed to be a lifetime commitment.

The Nebraska attorney general has recognized something even more serious in the Koso case, however. Wedding or not, Matthew Koso is a grown man who seduced a child. There are very good reasons for such things being against the law, even in Kansas and even when the child in question believes that she is in love. Prosecuting this case should send a warning to other adults who imagine they can turn sex crimes into romance by marrying their victims.