Tuesday, August 30, 2005

From today's New York Times, we learn that the people of Kansas -- you know, those people who, unlike us, have values -- allow grown men to marry girls barely out of puberty:

Rape Charge Follows Marriage to a 14-Year-Old

FALLS CITY, Neb., Aug. 29 - On Sunday evening, Matthew Koso tipped three ounces of formula into his 5-day-old daughter's mouth, then hoisted her atop his shoulder in hope of a burp. On Tuesday morning, he is scheduled to be arraigned on charges for which the newborn is the state's prime piece of evidence.

Mr. Koso is 22. The baby's mother, Crystal, is 14. He is charged with statutory rape, even though they were wed with their parents' blessing in May, crossing into Kansas because their own state prohibits marriages of people under 17.

The Nebraska attorney general accuses Mr. Koso of being a pedophile; they say it is true love....

Outrage over the case has rippled through this town of 4,800 about 100 miles from both Omaha and Kansas City, and to two state capitals. The governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, embarrassed by her state's status as one of the few allowing children as young as 12 to marry, has said she will propose a raise in the minimum age when the Legislature reconvenes in January....

First of all, good for Kansas's (Democratic) governor. Marriage at 12? That's barbaric.

As for prosecuting this guy, maybe that's excessive, given that he found a state where the marriage could be performed legally. On the other hand, the marriage is creepy:

...For now, Mr. Koso, out on $5,000 bond, sits in the basement of his parents' home, where the walls are papered with the pink-and-purple, heart-filled love notes that his wife, a ninth-grader, scribbled on notebook paper in class....

Matthew and Crystal met when she was 8, and he played video games with her half-brother. Mr. Koso, who was in special education classes for attention deficit disorder and other learning problems, graduated from high school in 2001 and joined the Marine Corps, but left after four months on a medical discharge....

"He's always been friends with people that were younger," said Peggy Koso, recalling her son at age 5 or 6 passing hours with building blocks and racing cars with a neighbor of 3 or 4. "His own peers never accepted him."

The two became a couple, according to Crystal's "Happy Anniversary" drawing on the wall, on Sept. 17, 2003. She was 12 and he 20. Exactly a year later, Crystal's mother, Cecilia Guyer, who is divorced from her father, filed for a restraining order against Mr. Koso, writing of him: "He's too old for early teens. He needs to stay away."

Despite the court order, both mothers now say, Crystal continued to go to the Kosos' home after school and stay through supper, sleeping over in Mr. Koso's basement room on weekends. Ms. Koso said she spoke to her son about the risks of pregnancy and prison and made excuses to check on the couple frequently when they were alone. Ms. Guyer said that she asked Crystal why she seemed to be using fewer tampons, but that she denied being sexually active.

Then one afternoon when Ms. Guyer and her daughter were shopping at a second-hand store for a dress for an eighth grade dance, Ms. Guyer noticed that Crystal had stretch marks. The couple confessed, but said they were not interested in adoption. On May 3, after consulting with a lawyer, they were married....

Wonderful -- a couple of middle-aged, mature, responsible gay people who've been together for twenty years can't get married in Kansas, but these two can.

If you go to the Times story, by the way, notice whose name is conspicuously absent: that of Kansas attorney general Phill Kline. You remember Phill -- he's the guy who was scouring the records of abortion clinics a few months ago, apparently looking for (among other things) evidence that the clinics were lax in reporting statutory rape. Underage sex really bugs him -- or at least it does when abortion is involved. But when it leads to marriage, even marriage with a big age gap? According to the Wichita Eagle, Kline isn't losing any sleep over that:

Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline may seek a higher minimum marriage age in his proposals for the 2006 legislative session, spokesman Whitney Watson said.

"It's not something we've taken a close look at," he said.

No, of course not. Abortion is bad. Marriage is good.

(Recall that in 2003, according to the L.A. Times, Kline "issued an impassioned defense of a Kansas law that subjected sexually active teens to much steeper criminal penalties if they were gay ... because [a] heterosexual couple might some day marry, and 'marriage creates families' -- a desirable outcome for the state." Presumably, he considers even this marriage "a desirable outcome for the state.")

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