Wyoming Republicans think child marriage should be legal, but not trans healthcare

Republicans in Wyoming are fighting to keep underage marriage legal – at the same time as vehemently opposing trans rights.

Wyoming is one of the few states in the US where there is no minimum age for marriage. Anyone under 16 wanting to do so, however, must get permission from a judge.

However, bill HB7 is making its way through the state legislature and seeks to raise the age of marriage to 16 – which would also invalidate any existing marriages of people that age.

The bill is currently before the state senate, after being approved by the House of Representatives last month.

And Republicans are not happy, saying marriage under the age of 16 should be protected in cases where a girl under that age becomes pregnant.

‘Under-16 marriage ‘for the sake of children’

Ahead of its second reading, last week, the Wyoming Republican Party sent an email saying: “This bill may seem harmless but there are concerns about constitutional rights.”

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Screenshots of the email, which was shared online by Democratic Wyoming House of Representatives member, Mike Yin, show it asked people to “study” the information and “share your thoughts with your legislators”.

The email links to a blog – Capitol Watch For Wyoming Families – which encourages people to tell senate members to vote against the bill (whose sponsor is also a Republican, representative Dan Zwonitzer).

The concerns it lists include that the bill “denies parental rights” and “denies the fundamental purpose of marriage”.

The email says: “Marriage is the only institution in Wyoming statute designed to keep a child’s father and mother living under the same roof and co-operating in the raising of any children that they, together, conceive.

“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.”

Wyoming pushing against trans rights

Zwonitzer told Cowboy State Daily: “It’s audacious for the Republican Party to suggest that as soon as you can give birth to a child, you should be allowed to get married.”

He explained: “You don’t want a 30-year-old [man] who impregnates a 12-year-old [girl] to be able to marry [her] and get around all of our other child protection laws. I find that argument disingenuous.”

At the same time that Republicans are fighting against the bill, they continue to push against trans rights in the Wyoming State Legislature, where the right-wing party hold a majority.

The day before the underage marriage bill had its second reading, the senate passed two anti-trans bills: one prohibiting gender-affirming care, the other banning trans women from competing in female school sports.

First introduced in the senate, they have both now moved on to the House of Representatives.

The Human Rights Campaign have condemned Wyoming lawmakers for the bills. Its state legislative director, Cathryn Oakley, said lawmakers were “making a mockery of the state’s most precious value: ‘equal rights’” and urged representatives to vote against the bills.

“These bills aren’t about the real issues affecting the wellbeing of Wyoming’s kids or the future of student athletics,” she said.

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