Missouri Republican state Senator Mike Moon's recent suggestion that children as young as 12 should be allowed to marry has sparked controversy and criticism.
During debate on a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors, Moon cited an anecdote about a couple he met in college who had married at age 12 and were "still" happily married.
Moon's comments were in response to questioning from Democratic state Representative Peter Merideth. The Democratic ligislator cited Moon's support of child marriage as inconsistent with his aim of protecting children through his bill banning transgender care for minors.
Moon's support for child marriage has long been documented.
In 2018 he opposed a bill raising the marriage age in the state from 15 to 16 and requiring parental permission for older teenagers to marry. At the time, he cited the same anecdote of the couple he met in college to defend the practice.
You can hear what he said in the video below.
"You voted 'no' on making it illegal for kids to be married to adults at the age of 12 if their parents consented to it. 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. To be raped by an adult."
Moon asked in response if Meredith "know[s] any kids who have been married at age 12" to which Meredith said he doesn't "need to."
Moon then said:
"I do. And guess what? They're still married."
Moon's recent comments have been met with widespread criticism.
Advocates for the protection of children have pointed out that allowing children to marry is not only illegal but also puts them at risk of abuse and exploitation.
Studies have shown that child marriage can have significant negative consequences, including an increased risk of mental and physical health problems, educational disadvantages, and higher rates of domestic violence and poverty.
But Moon has since doubled down on Twitter.
In response to one Twitter user who expressed outrage over his answer to Meredith, Moon wrote that the "back story" was missing, explaining "a 12-year-old impregnated a minor of similar age."
You can see his post below.
When another Twitter user attacked his stance by pointing out he was defending the rape of a minor, Moon dug his heels in further, writing:
"You clearly did not understand. Her parents consented - no force. Their marriage is thriving."
You can see his post below.
Many have condemned his responses.
Moon's support of the practice of child marriage in some instances is particularly alarming given his role as a lawmaker.
Children are not capable of making informed decisions about marriage and their parents should not be able to make such decisions for them. Allowing child marriage goes against the fundamental principles of protecting the rights and welfare of children.
Moon's recent comments also highlight the need for lawmakers to be knowledgeable and informed about issues related to gender and sexuality.
The bill he introduced would ban gender-affirming care for transgender children, which has been shown to be an effective treatment for gender dysphoria. Moon's position on this issue and his support of child marriage show a lack of understanding and compassion for transgender youth.