New Jersey lawmakers are pushing a bill that will ban marriage for those under the age of 18. The measure hopes to prevent minors from becoming child brides.
The Senate has passed the bill last April by a 30–5 vote. Proponents of the bill, which has 40 co-sponsors, are confident it will also pass in the House.
Last year, lawmakers also passed a similar proposal calling for the banning of child brides, which received much bipartisan support. Republican Gov. Chris Christie, however, vetoed the measure and cited that it infringed on cultural and religious beliefs.
Supporters of the bill believe that new governor Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy won't veto the bill like Christie. If that happens, New Jersey would be the first state in the U.S. to ban marriage for minors.
"I know Gov. Murphy would be supportive of this bill," Democratic Sen. Nellie Pou said. "I think it's good New Jersey is leading the way," she added.
Under the current law, teenagers below 18 years old may still be allowed to marry provided that there's parental consent. Teens under 16 years old, on the other hand, could marry with parental consent and an approval from a state judge.
The new proposal removes all these conditions to make the law straightforward. Anyone wishing to marry in New Jersey has to be 18 years old, without any exceptions.
Proponents believe that a law that bans child brides is still necessary because many teens below 18 are still being forced into marriage due to a pregnancy or an arrangement with another family. Those who oppose the bill, however, said that a 16-year-old with real affection for someone couldn't make the choice to marry under this law.
"At 13, a girl can go to an abortion clinic without parental guidance...but when the same child wants to get married, we say no? That's an anachronism," Republican Sen. Gerald Cardinale argued.