Wyoming lawmaker trying again to raise minimum marriage age

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A state lawmaker seeks to raise the minimum age for legal marriage in Wyoming.

Wyoming allows marriage at 16 but people even younger may wed with approval by a parent or guardian, and from a judge.

A bill banning child marriages failed 31-26 in the Wyoming House in 2019. Democratic Rep. Charles Pelkey, of Laramie, is sponsoring a new bill that would raise the limit to 18 in nearly every scenario.

Last year’s bill would have allowed no exceptions. Pekley’s bill would give juveniles fully emancipated in the court system the right to marry, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports.

The bill is part of an effort to eliminate child marriage nationwide, Pelkey said.

“You can’t buy dry ice in Wyoming unless you’re 18 years old but you can get married before the age of 18,” Pelkey said. “All I’m asking is that we put a barrier up.”

Critics of last year’s bill worried about taking away parental freedoms, a view Pelkey described as bizarre.

“The only way my bill would infringe on parental rights is if you regarded your children as property that you could negotiate away to somebody else,” Pelkey said. “The right to marry should solely involve the individuals who are getting married.”

Bills unrelated to the state budget will need a two-thirds vote to be introduced in the upcoming legislative session. The four-week session begins Feb. 10.

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