Missouri lawmaker Mike Moon suggests 12-year-olds should be able to marry

As Missouri lawmakers were debating a bill this week that would ban all gender-affirming care for transgender children, the Republican who introduced the proposal suggested that children as young as 12 should be allowed to get married in the state.

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During testimony in the Missouri House General Laws Committee over a bill that has already passed in the Missouri Senate, state Sen. Mike Moon (R) was asked Tuesday by state Rep. Peter Merideth (D) why he had previously voted against prohibiting kids to marry adults at the age of 12 with parental consent.

“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,” Merideth said. “To be raped by an adult.”

In response, Moon said he knew of at least one couple that made it work after being married at an age when most children are in the seventh grade.

“Do you know any kids who have been married at age 12? I do,” Moon said. “And guess what? They’re still married.”

Following some online backlash from Democrats and critics, Moon released a video Thursday to clear up the “confusion” about his remarks. After saying that he does not support adults marrying minors and emphasizing that rapists should “be punished to the full extent of the law,” Moon again referenced the couple he says he knows who married at 12 as a result of the girl’s pregnancy. The Republican mentioned this week that the couple’s marriage is “thriving.”

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“I understand this clip may lead to some misunderstanding,” Moon said, adding that what “is often missing is the backstory.”

“When this couple was in their teens — actually preteens — they took actions that resulted in the girl becoming pregnant,” he said. “The youngsters’ parents decided to allow the children to marry. They weren’t forced.”

Moon did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday.

The GOP lawmaker’s remarks came the same week that Missouri’s attorney general announced new restrictions on gender-affirming care for adults and minors in a decision believed to be the first in the nation. Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey (R) released on Thursday what he described as an emergency rule, in which adults and minors would be required to undergo 18 months of therapy before receiving gender-affirming health care. The rule is scheduled to go into effect on April 27 and won’t expire until February 2024.

“We have serious concerns about how children are being treated throughout the state, but we believe everyone is entitled to evidence-based medicine and adequate mental health care,” Madeline Sieren, a spokeswoman for the Missouri attorney general, said in a statement to the Associated Press.

Advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal are threatening to sue the state for an emergency rule they describe as being “based on distorted, misleading, and debunked claims and ignores the overwhelming body of scientific and medical evidence supporting this care.”

“This rule is a shocking attempt to exploit Missouri’s consumer protection laws in order to play politics with life-saving medical care,” the groups said in a joint statement Thursday. “Transgender people in Missouri deserve the support and care necessary to give them the same chance to thrive as their peers.”

Missouri is among several states where Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that would limit gender-affirming care for adults. Until this year, most proposed restrictions on transition-related care targeted people under 18. Some of the new measures prohibit it for individuals up to age 21, while others block Medicaid from covering for it for all ages.

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Moon, who has represented Ash Grove, Mo., in both the state House and Senate, has previously expressed his support for marriage among children. When Missouri passed a law in 2018 that raised the marriage age in the state from 15 to 16 and required for older teens to get parental permission to marry, Moon opposed the bill, according to the Springfield News-Leader. Moon cited the same anecdote of the 12-year-olds marrying, which he acknowledged to be an extreme example, as “something to ponder” when it came to marriage among children.

The bill Moon is sponsoring, S.B. 49, would ban health-care providers from performing “gender transition surgeries on any minor.” It would also prohibit health-care providers from prescribing or administering “cross-sex hormones or puberty-blocking drugs to a minor for a gender transition, unless such minor was receiving such treatment prior to August 28, 2023,” which would be the date the bill would go into effect if it’s passed into law. The bill will likely to be signed into law by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R).

As Moon responded to the criticism he received on social media, Merideth, the Democrat from St. Louis who questioned him this week, tweeted that his Republican colleague’s opposition to gender-affirming care but support of marriage among children was “striking.” In response, Moon used the word “mutilation” when referencing gender-affirming care, which some Republicans have also used to describe the health care amid the wave of bills across the country.

“There is a difference between marriage and mutilation,” Moon tweeted on Thursday. “Marriage is reversible and mutilation is not.”

Merideth replied, “No MO kids get the surgeries you call ‘mutilation.’”

But Moon maintained in his video statement that the one example he cited of 12-year-olds getting married as a result of a pregnancy, and having a strong union, was possible because of God.

“Tragic circumstances such as these can only be overcome through one avenue, the grace and mercy of God,” he said.

Maham Javaid contributed to this report.

Originally Appeared Here

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