Bias Watch

Anti-LGBTQ activists say marriage equality bill will lead to child marriage in the US

Brian Brown
NOM leader Brian Brown Photo: AP

The anti-LGBTQ organization NOM (National Organization for Marriage) is claiming that a bill to protect the rights of same-sex couples and interracial couples to marry would legalize “child brides.”

The group’s leader – Brian Brown, who also heads the Souther Poverty Law Center designated hate group World Congress of Families – sent an email blast to supporters saying that the Respect for Marriage Act “would impose same-sex ‘marriage’ on every state in the nation even if state voters have explicitly voted to define marriage solely as the union of one man and one woman.”

The bill – which passed the House earlier this year before getting stalled in the Senate – would require the federal government and other states to recognize same-sex marriages and interracial marriages performed in any state, in case the Supreme Court overturns its decisions in Loving v. Virginia and Obergefell v. Hodges. Justice Clarence Thomas said that the Supreme Court should reconsider Obergefell – which legalized marriage equality – in light of the Court overturning Roe v. Wade earlier this year, signaling to many the conservative court’s possible plans.

If Obergefell is overturned, the bans on same-sex marriage many states still have on the books would go into effect, something that NOM wants.

But they go beyond advocating an end to same-sex marriage and say that the Respect for Marriage Act would lead to “forcing every state to accept polygamous marriages, men marrying child brides and every other perverse type of ‘marriage.'”

“NOM has created this meme to help publicize just what is at stake in this battle,” the email states (emphasis theirs). The “meme” is below. It admonishes NOM’s followers to “tell Republican Senators: No nationwide gay marriage, no polygamous marriage, no child brides, no H.R. 8404.”

The NOM meme

Child marriage is banned in only eight states with no exceptions. Other states allow minors to marry with parental consent or permission from a judge. Some allow minors to marry if they are pregnant, have given birth to a child, or have been emancipated. Some states have no minimum age while others have minimum ages from 14 up to 18.

The organization Unchained At Last estimates that almost 300,000 minors have gotten married from the year 2000 to 2018.

There have been attempts to ban minors from marrying at the state level, but Republicans are generally against them.

“Obviously, I’m against child marriage,” Idaho state Rep. Bryan Zollinger (R) told NBC News in 2019 when he voted against a child marriage ban. “But basically marriage is a contract between people that shouldn’t require government permission.”

Idaho state Rep. Christy Zito (R) also voted against that bill, saying it would endanger the “sanctity of family.”

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