During a Missouri House of Representatives debate on Tuesday, an anti-trans state lawmaker proudly supported 12-year-olds getting married while supporting a bill banning trans youth from accessing gender-affirming care up to age 18 and forcibly detransition trans youth.
He even said that he knew a kid who got married at age 12 and happily informed his colleagues that she is still with her husband.
Effectively, Missouri state Sen. Mike Moon (R) was arguing that a 12-year-old is too young to know what their gender is but not too young to enter into a marriage contract and a sexual relationship, even if it’s with an adult.
During the debate, state Rep. Peter Meredith (D) asked state Sen. Moon about his support for H.B. 419 – the ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors – while he voted against a bill to raise the state’s minimum marriage age to 16 in 2018.
“I’ve heard you talk about parents’ rights to raise their kids how they want,” Meredith said. “In fact, I just double-checked. You voted ‘no’ on making it illegal for kids to be married to adults at the age of 12.”
“If their parents consented to it, you said actually, that should be the law because it’s the parents’ right and the kid’s right to decide what’s best for them: to be raped by an adult.”
Moon asked Meredith if he knew anyone who got married at age 12. “I don’t need to,” Meredith responded.
“I do. And guess what? They’re still married,” Moon said smugly.
The 2018 bill to raise the marriage age to 16 – which still allowed for some, but fewer, child marriages – ultimately passed without Moon’s support.
While conservatives have spent decades arguing that same-sex marriage will lead to child marriage as an attempt to associate LGBTQ+ people with child predators, it’s generally the more conservative lawmakers who oppose ending child marriage.
Child welfare advocates say that such laws help cover up and even legalize child sex abuse. For example, a 55-year-old man could get married to a 13-year-old girl and legally abuse her in a way that would be illegal if they didn’t get married.
If this sounds far-fetched, it’s not. In fact, child marriages are legal in 44 U.S. states, and 20 states don’t require any minimum age for marriage with a parental or judicial waiver.
“Approximately 248,000 children were married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010,” Equality Now notes. “The vast majority were girls wed to adult men, many much older.”
“The fact that Missouri Senator Mike Moon said that 12-year-olds can be married off to adults just sickens me,” tweeted Jess Piper, executive director of Blue Missouri. “My daughter is nearly 11 and still plays with Barbies and her baby dolls.”
In another tweet, she noted that over 7,000 teens under the age of 18 got married in her state from 2000 to 2014, and the vast majority were girls. One-third of the marriages involved men between the ages of 20 and 60.
On Twitter, Moon further discussed the 12-year-old he knew and said that they “impregnated a minor of similar age” and that they got married with their parents’ consent.
“Her parents consented – no force,” he said, even though parents’ consent for gender-affirming care for trans youth wouldn’t matter if H.B. 419 is passed. “Their marriage is thriving.”
The Missouri House of Representatives, which has a Republican supermajority, voted in favor of H.B. 419 on Tuesday night, giving it a first round of approval in a 106-45 vote. All state house Republicans except for two voted in favor of it, and all state house Democrats voted against it.
The bill bans transgender minors from accessing gender-affirming treatments, including hormones and puberty blockers. Major medical groups including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics approve of these treatments for trans youth while Republican state lawmakers mostly disapprove.
Republicans rejected an amendment to allow trans youth who are currently getting gender-affirming care to continue it, instead giving them six months to stop and detransition.
“That’s a reasonable off-ramp for children that are on some of these drugs. We want to get them off of those as quickly as possible,” said state Rep. Brad Hudson (R), sponsor of the bill.
They also passed a bill that banned trans youth from participating in school sports. The bill, which applies to public and charter schools, grades six through 12, requires student-athletes to play with the team associated with their sex assigned at birth.
Both bills need another round of votes before going to the Missouri Senate.