MO Republican pushing trans care ban suggests 12-year-olds should be allowed to marry

State Sen. Mike Moon, an Ash Grove Republican, right, hands doorkeeper Gil Schellman copies of a proposed bill on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the state Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo.

A Missouri Republican state senator this week suggested that children as young as 12 should be able to get married as he pushes legislation that would ban gender-affirming care for minors.

“Do you know any kids who have been married at age 12? I do. And guess what? They’re still married,” state Sen. Mike Moon, an Ash Grove Republican, said Tuesday evening in response to questioning by state Rep. Peter Merideth, a St. Louis Democrat.

Moon made the comment during testimony in the House General Laws Committee over his bill that would ban all “gender transition procedures” for people under 18, which passed the Missouri Senate last month. Moon has attempted to frame his legislation as a way to protect kids as LGBTQ rights advocates call the bill an attack on the transgender community.

The Republican state senator has been lambasted on social media for his comment, with many pointing out the inconsistencies between his views on child marriage and his legislation targeting transgender kids.

“The fact that Missouri Senator Mike Moon said that 12 year olds can be married off to adults just sickens me,” Jess Piper, executive director of Blue Missouri, a group that fundraises for Democrats, wrote on Twitter. “My daughter is nearly 11 and still plays with Barbies and her baby dolls. We are living in a hellscape in Missouri under a GOP supermajority.”

Missouri in 2018 passed a law setting the state’s minimum marriage age at 16, with the approval of one parent or guardian. The law’s passage came after The Star revealed that Missouri had the nation’s most lenient marriage law for 15-year-olds. It previously allowed children even younger to marry with a judge’s approval.

Activists have argued that the Missouri law still doesn’t go far enough, leaving thousands of 16- and 17-year-olds open to the kind of abuse, poverty, helplessness, lack of education and exploitation that often accompany child marriage.

Moon, a hard-right member of the state Senate known for his extreme views and comments, voted against the marriage bill when he was a member of the House.

Merideth on Tuesday had pointed out Moon’s vote against the marriage bill, saying it was inconsistent with his claim of protecting kids through legislation that would ban gender-affirming care.

“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,” Merideth told Moon.

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of state Rep. Peter Merideth’s last name.