Governor Hickenlooper signed House Bill 15-1327, Limit Proxy Marriages to Military & Contractors, into law today, May 28 at 3:20 p.m. The signing ceremony took place at Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Visitor Center in Colorado Springs, CO 80926. Representative Kit Roupe, El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman and other members from the community attended the bill signing ceremony.
House Bill 15-1327, sponsored by Representatives Kit Roupé (R-Colorado Springs) and Joann Ginal (D-Fort Collins), and Senators Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) and John Cooke (R-Greeley), redefines proxy marriage in Colorado to only permit persons who are military personnel or military contractors located out of state or in another country to wed by proxy. Additionally, the new law requires both parties to the marriage are 18 years of age or older and at least one party is a Colorado resident. The new law addresses concerns that Colorado’s previous relaxed proxy marriage requirements established a clearinghouse for human trafficking and presented a serious Homeland Security loophole.
“I was very concerned that many missing children and young women in Colorado were falling victim to human trafficking and the loose proxy marriage laws in our state may have contributed to law enforcement’s inability to recover them,” said Roupe. “This new law is a major step in deterring human trafficking in Colorado and will help protect children and make our young women and their families safer.”
Prior to HB 15-1327, Colorado law permitted marriages in cases where only one party of the marriage was present and could represent any absent party by proxy.
In 2014, an underage girl from another state was brought by her legal guardian to a county office to marry a Syrian National living in Saudi Arabia. The groom wasn’t present and they are now legally married. Neither had any ties to the county where they acquired the marriage license or to Colorado. In 2013 a man residing in Luxembourg obtained a proxy marriage to marry a woman residing in France. A third party, a Colorado resident, through an executed power of attorney, acted as a proxy for the woman at the marriage ceremony.
How are either of these circumstances possible? It turns out this was a frequent occurrence in Colorado. Counties of Colorado were seeing people from all over the United States and around the world visit Colorado to get married. Until today, Colorado was the only state where proxy marriages could occur. There are three other states that allow proxy marriages only in regard to military stationed overseas.
Before this bill was signed into law today, in Colorado a couple would obtain an absentee application, fill it out, and bring it along with identification for the absent person to present in front of a civil authority. Neither party needed to be a Colorado resident (or even a U.S. resident). One party would simply travel to Colorado with the application and identification for their future spouse.
The former loose law may seem mundane and harmless, but the implications of our former proxy marriage law affected all Coloradans. First, proxy marriages in Colorado posed a threat to our national security, as individuals who aren’t citizens of the United States could obtain marriage licenses and all of the benefits and protections that come along with it. Secondly, there was a very real risk of human trafficking. There was no requirement or ability to verify that the person not present for the marriage was entering into the marriage willingly and was not being exploited. Additionally, proxy marriage laws jeopardized youth by allowing individuals under the age of 18 to be married to both foreign and domestic adults. Lastly, this loophole allowed people to bypass marriage laws of other states.
In Texas and before this new Colorado law, it was illegal for prisoners to get married while in prison, for years prisoners were getting married via proxy in Colorado by utilizing the former loophole in our law. In 2014 a woman residing in Texas obtained a proxy marriage to marry an incarcerated inmate at a Texas correctional facility. A Texas resident through an executed power of attorney acted as a proxy for the incarcerated man at the marriage ceremony.
When I learned about these issues, I knew we had to act on it immediately. That’s why I took direct action with Representative Ginal in a bipartisan effort through HB 15-1327 – Limit Proxy Marriages to Military and Contractors. Representative Ginal and I sponsored this bill in order to close these loopholes in Colorado’s marriage laws to help ensure our national security and the safety of our youth. We intended to deal with this issue by making proxy marriages available only to those who are Colorado residents, over the age of 18 and who are currently serving or supporting our military overseas.
#humantrafficking #homelandsecurity #stopISIS