It was Never About the Children

Wyoming’s GOP rejected a bipartisan effort to end child marriage in the state while moving forward with anti-queer legislation.

Valentine Wiggin
3 min readFeb 17

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Children dressed like a bride and groom about to enter a silver limo
This is not what child marriage typically looks like. I just needed a thumbnail. Source: Ben Waardenburg on Unsplash

With all the recent talk about groomers and protecting children, it comes as a surprise that few people talk about the USA’s child marriage problem. Some may not even know that this issue exists and are under the impression that child marriage is already illegal in this country. However, this is far from the case. Only six states (Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, and Minnesota) raised their minimum age to marry to 18 as of now.

As one of eight states that does not have a minimum age to marry, Wyoming legislators are introducing new regulations that would set 18 as the minimum age to get married. This bill has exceptions in place for 16- and 17-year-olds who are fully emancipated. The previous bill, which had no exceptions at all, was rejected in a 31–26 vote. Critics said that the previous bill infringed on parental rights. Democratic sponsor and congressman Charles Pelkey called these criticisms “bizarre” saying that any rights pertaining to marriage should stay between the married parties.

In addition to Pelkey, Republican Dan Zwonitzer sponsored a newer bill that has exceptions for 16- and 17-year-olds who are able to financially support themselves and enter legal contracts. The Wyoming Republican Party still rejected such legislation saying that it raises “concerns about constitutional rights” and it denies the “fundamental purpose of marriage”. The party went on to state that, since children are capable of conceiving, they should be able to marry.

When children of this age are married, whether it’s to each other or to someone older than them, it traps them in a cycle of poverty. A lack of education limits economic and social opportunities that others of the same age typically have access to. This, in turn, keeps them dependent on the relationship to survive. This cycle is likely to be exacerbated due to rising costs across the nation.

The Wyoming Republican Party’s defenses of child marriages largely revolve around a (presumably) minor couple’s ability to stay together. They believe that being raised by both cishet bio parents…

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Valentine Wiggin

Death-positive, sex-positive, and LGBTQ-affirming Christian. Gen Z. I hate onions. She/her

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