Wyoming is one of 8 states that do not require a minimum age for marriage.
A new bill aims to set a minimum age of 18 with an exception for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Wyoming’s Republican Party sent an email Thursday raising “concerns about constitutional rights.”
The Wyoming Republican Party on Thursday criticized a bill that seeks to implement a minimum age requirement for marriage as the new law makes its way through the state legislature.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, a Republican, and would raise the state’s legal age of marriage to 18. An exception is made for 16- and 17-year-olds, provided they receive parental or guardian consent.
In a mass email sent Thursday, the Wyoming Republican Party said the law raises “constitutional rights concerns” and denies “the fundamental purpose of marriage” as well as “parental rights.”
“Marriage is the only institution in the Wyoming Statute designed to keep the father and mother of a child living under the same roof and collaborating in the rearing of all children who, together, conceive. This is the NATURAL RIGHT of every baby,” the group wrote.
The email goes on to say that since minors are able to have children before the age of 16, marriage should be an open option “for the sake of those children.”
Wyoming’s Republican Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In an email to Insider, Zwonitzer said that “there was some protest against the bill last year, but no outright hostility, especially from the Party.”
Wyoming is one of eight US states that does not have a strict minimum age requirement. Other states include California, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Washington.
Current Wyoming law states that marriages involving children under the age of 16 must receive court approval and parental or guardian consent.
According to Deputy State Chancellor Guy Beaudoin, the state of Wyoming has authorized an average of 4,200 weddings a year over the past 11 years. An average of about 20 marriages a year involved someone who was 18 or younger. Beaudoin did not specify how many of those marriages involved people under 18.
The Wyoming Republican Party email also linked to a blog, Capitol Watch for Wyoming Families, which encourages voters to email their state representatives and ask them to vote “NO” on the bill. The website is maintained by a pastor.
The blog post argues that the state should have legal protections for minors wishing to marry and that parents should be the “first line of defense for minors who may or may not be mature enough to consent to marriage.”
“For minors to whom God has given a child, states should allow for the best interests of that child,” another argument reads.
The bill passed a third reading in the House on January 20, 36-25, with 25 Republicans voting no. There are currently three Democrats in the House who voted yes for the bill.
Rep. Mike Yin, a Democrat, tweeted a copy of the Wyoming Republican Party email on Thursday and accused the group of wanting the kids to get married “full stop.”
“Just to be clear, they are attacking a bill sponsored by a member of their own party,” Yin wrote.
Zwonitzer previously co-sponsored a similar bill in 2018 that would have set the minimum age at 18 with no exceptions, according to The Casper Star-Tribune. The new bill adds language on exceptions for 16- and 17-year-olds.
“The previous sponsor [former Democrat congressman Charles Pelkey] he’s had a lot of health issues and I was hoping to do some good for him by bringing him back again,” Zwonitzer told Insider. “He was very invested and it never made sense to me because the bill didn’t go all the way through the legislature, so I keep bringing it back.”
The congressman told Cowboy State Daily that it is “bold for the Republican party to suggest that as soon as you can give birth to a child you should be allowed to marry.”
“There are 12- and 13-year-olds in the country who end up pregnant, and we certainly don’t want them to be able to get married, in my opinion,” she told the local news.
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