New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday gave final legislative approval to a measure that would bar anyone under the age of 18 from getting married.
The New Jersey Assembly passed S-427 in a 59-0 vote. It was previously approved by the Senate in a 30-5 vote on April 12.
It now goes to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy for his consideration. He has not indicated whether he will sign or veto the bill. His predecessor, Republican Gov. Chris Christie, previously vetoed identical legislation.
If signed, New Jersey would be the only state in the nation that would bar those under 18 from marrying. Under the legislation, judicial approval for underage marriages would no longer be allowed, unlike the present system. Under current law, minors who are 16 or 17 can get married with parental consent. Minors under the age of 16 can be married after obtaining parental consent and the approval of a Superior Court judge.
Advocates of the ban argued before legislative committees last year that at least 170,000 children nationwide between 2000 and 2010 were forced into arranged marriages—primarily between younger girls and older men—and that many of the relationships involved physical and mental abuse.
“I am proud New Jersey is taking the lead nationally on this issue,” Sen. Nellie Pou, D-Passaic/Bergen, a bill sponsor, said in an earlier statement. “Marriage is a legal contract and it should be reserved for adults.” She added, “It is startling for people to learn that there are underage marriages happening in New Jersey, but there are.”
Christie vetoed prior legislation because he said it would run counter to some religious customs and would be more exclusive than laws in other jurisdictions. He proposed an outright marriage ban on those under 16, and judicial approval for those age 16 and 17.