Wyoming Republicans are outraged over a bill proposing to raise the state’s legal marriage age to 16, arguing that putting “arbitrary” limits on child marriage interferes with their religious liberty.
The bill, which is working its way through the state Legislature and already passed the Wyoming House of Representatives on a 36-25 vote late last month, proposes banning state residents from marrying anyone under the age of 16. It also requires anyone under the age of 18 seeking to get married to receive written consent from their parents under the eye of a competent witness, Newsweek reports.
Wyoming is one of just eight states in the country without a minimum age requirement for marriage and currently ranks among the top ten states in the country for child marriages, according to a 2021 study by advocacy group Unchained at Last, the report states.
Other states, like Tennessee, have actually sought to go in the opposite direction, with Republicans there seeking last year to eliminate any limits on marriage entirely until public outrage forced them to reverse course.
The Wyoming Republican Party is urging its constituents to oppose the bill because it “infringes on their religious and parental rights.”
To make the point, the party shared materials in a Thursday evening email to constituents containing talking points from Wyoming Family Watch, a religious lobbying group organized by a conservative pastor in the state.
Among other points, the letter argued that preventing children under 16 years old from marrying “denies the fundamental purpose of marriage,” robbing teen parents from the ability to remain together under one roof for any children they might bear together—even though nothing in state law would prevent those children from co-parenting.