Texas claims no age was too young for sect's girls to marry

SAN ANGELO, Texas — A girl as young as 13 may have given birth at a polygamous sect's compound, a child welfare worker testified Thursday night at a marathon custody hearing for 416 children removed from the ranch. Child Protective Services investigator Angie Voss said that at least five girls younger than 18 are pregnant or have children and that many of the girls told case workers no age was considered too young for marriage and sex.

Voss' testimony concluded an 11-hour hearing that ended at about 9 p.m. and will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. today as CPS officials argued that all the children should be kept from returning to the YFZ Ranch. But lawyers for the children said the state cannot make such a sweeping generalization about all of them and should determine their fates case by case.

The legal proceedings were chaotic. During the first four hours of the hearing, only about 15 minutes of testimony was heard as a crowd of lawyers appointed to represent the children lined up to raise legal points. At one point about 20 lawyers stood in the center aisle of the courtroom to examine a single document. As they examined it, about 30 women from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sat in the courtroom in prairie dresses that seemed from another era.

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