Wyoming GOP defends child marriage while claiming it’s trans rights that harm children

Tennessee, same-sex marriage, child marriage
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Wyoming Republicans continue to propose anti-trans legislation under the guise of protecting youth. But despite the GOP’s supposed concern for the safety of children, the state’s GOP is waging a campaign against a bill that would prohibit child marriage.

Wyoming’s H.B. 7 seeks to ban marriages involving anyone under the age of 16 and would allow 16 and 17-year-olds to marry with parental consent. Current Wyoming law has no minimum age requirement for marriage. For those under 16, parents must receive a judge’s consent. The bill would take away a judge’s ability to do so and simply make it illegal for those under 16 to marry.

Opponents of child marriage say that it places children at the risk of being victims of violence and robs them of their childhood. They have criticized the Wyoming bill because most child marriages involve girls who are 16 or 17, but some conservatives are opposing the bill for the opposite reason: they believe younger children should be able to get married.

A mass email sent Thursday from the Wyoming Republican party reportedly advocated constituents email their lawmakers to encourage them not to support the bill due to “concerns about constitutional rights.”

The email linked to an analysis of the bill by Capitol Watch for Wyoming Families, which argued that since children under 16 can get pregnant, they should be able to get married so their kids can grow up in a stable home. It claimed the bill “denies the fundamental purpose of marriage” by denying “a child’s father and mother [from] living under the same roof.”

Capitol Watch also claimed the bill is a violation of parental rights and that “this arbitrary age is demonstrably higher than the historical norm of millennia of human existence.”

“The sad fact that physical maturity often does not match emotional and intellectual maturity is an indictment of our modern educational system,” it also declared. “That is a problem that should be addressed. But we should not use it as an excuse to instantiate bad law.”

“Since young men and women may be physically capable of begetting and bearing children prior to the age of 16, marriage MUST remain open to them for the sake of those children,” the bill states, referring to the children of the children who they believe should be allowed to get married.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R), is actually an out gay Republican, who called out Capitol Watch’s arguments as ridiculous.

“The Republican Party [leadership] has gotten so ideologically away from mainstream society that even trying to comment on some of their outrageous claims is difficult,” Zwonitzer told Cowboy State Daily regarding the fight against the child marriage bill. “They’re trying to attack our education system while promoting 12- and 13-year-olds can be married. It’s not congruent and it’s not even worthy of debate in the legislative arena.”

Zwonitzer said it is “audacious” for GOP leaders “to suggest that as soon as you can give birth to a child you should be allowed to get married.”

 “There are 12- and 13-year-olds in the country who wind up with pregnancies, and we certainly don’t want them to be able to get married, in my opinion.”  

He added, “You don’t want a 30-year-old who impregnates a 12-year-old to be able to marry them and get around all of our other child protection laws. I find that argument disingenuous.”  

The bill has already passed the Wyoming House and is now being considered in the Senate. It was unanimously passed in the first Senate committee meeting about it.

Zwonitzer has been in the legislature since 2005 and has spearheaded the defeat of several anti-LGBTQ+ bills.

And right now, he has his work cut out for him.

The legislature is currently considering several anti-trans bills, two of which seek to ban gender-affirming care for youth and one of which seeks to make it difficult for trans youth to play sports as their lived gender. All three bills have passed the Senate and are under consideration in the House.

Proponents of such bills claim that kids only say that they’re transgender because they’re the victims of “grooming.” Grooming is a term used to describe techniques used by child sex abusers to gain access to victims, earn their trust, and keep them from telling anyone about the abuse. There is no link between LGBTQ+ identities and child sex abuse.

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