Changes to Florida's child marriage laws

Tallahassee, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Florida is one step closer to ending child marriages at any age.

A ban on childhood marriage cleared the Florida Senate Wednesday with a unanimous vote, and, the state is one step closer to having the strictest child marriage law in the country.

Sherry Johnson as raped at eight years old, married at 11, and couldn’t legally divorce until she was 18.

Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto said, “She is the voice for this bill.”

Now, Johnson has spent the last six years fighting for legislation that bans all marriages for anyone under the age of 18.

Benacquisto added, “Her parents did the unthinkable: they forced her to marry the man who impregnated her as a child.”

One by one, state senators praised Johnson’s efforts.

Senator Rene Garcia said, "Thank you from the bottom of my heart for you being able to turn such a negative part of your life into a positive for so many children.”

“Florida is gonna be the first state ever to pass this bill," added Senator Daphne Campbell.

And when it came time for a vote, Johnson was all smiles.

Sherry Johnson said on what drove her to make the changes, “My passion for children, to not want them to have to experience the negative things, the negative life I had to experience, and it's not necessary. We should always look out for our children.”

Right now, there are no exceptions for anyone under 18 to get married. But that could be changing.

Johnson is worried any changes to the legislation will only put more girls at risk of being sex slaves.

A House committee is expected to add the exceptions on Thursday. After that, the negotiations begin.

The House committee is expected to add language tomorrow allowing 17- and 18-year-olds to marry if pregnancy is involved.