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Massachusetts Lawmakers Seek Ban On All Child Marriages

BOSTON (CBS) - There is a new push to outlaw child marriage in Massachusetts. Protesters gathered at the State House Wednesday in wedding gowns to try and prove their point.

Tammy Monteiro, 36, says she ran under the cover of darkness to escape her husband of 20 years.

"I got married as a child. I got married at the age of 16 to a 25-year-old man who was part of an extremist group," said Monteiro at the Massachusetts State House Wednesday.

This week, Monteiro returned to Massachusetts to testify on Beacon Hill.

Child marriage
Woman protesting child marriage at Mass. State House (WBZ-TV)

"I have gone through spiritual abuse, emotional abuse and financial abuse that has really ripped my life in pieces," Monteiro said.

Today, Monteiro and other former child brides protested outside House chambers.

They wore wedding gowns and chains to march down to the Governor's office demanding an end to child marriage.

Democratic Rep. Kay Khan said, "1,231 children as young as 14 were married in Massachusetts between 2000-2016, 83% were girls."

Child marriage laws
Women protest child marriage laws at Mass. State House (WBZ-TV)

"The system did let me down," Monteiro added. "And in one day he walked into that courthouse and in one day he walked out of that courthouse with complete custody of me and permission to make me his bride."

In Massachusetts, you must be 18 to get married but, with the consent of a parent or a guardian, a judge can sign off on the marriage of a minor. Companion bills to ban the practice are now making their way through Beacon Hill.

"I've chosen to empower myself and let my voice be heard here today. We need to end child marriage, it has to stop," said Monteiro.

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