New York is now the sixth state to ban
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Thursday to change the legal age of consent to be married in New York to 18.
“This administration fought hard to successfully end child marriage in New York and I’m proud to sign this legislation to strengthen our laws and further protect vulnerable children from exploitation,” the Governor said. “Children should be allowed to live their childhood, and I thank the many legislators and advocates who worked diligently to advance this measure and further prevent forced marriages in this state.”
“The cruel and callous practice of child marriage has traumatized too many children to count,” Assemblyman Phil Ramos, a co-sponsor of the bill, said. “Nalia’s Law, which will raise the age of consent for marriage to 18 and prohibit marriage if either person is underage, is named after one brace survivor of forced child marriage who I was lucky enough to meet. With the passage of this crucial legislation, minors in New York will be further protected from this predatory practice, and we can prevent stories like Nalia’s from repeating themselves.”
The Governor signed a similar law in 2017 that raised the age of consent to marry from fourteen to eighteen. The problem with that legislation was that parents could consent to seventeen-year-olds marrying. The law made it legal for an adult to have sex with a minor.
Delaware, New Jersey, Pennslyvania, Minnesota, and Rhode Island have also banned minors from marrying.
According to Unchained at Last, Arkansas, Idaho, and Nevada have the highest percentage of child marriage.
“Regardless of maturity level, minors lack sufficient legal rights and autonomy that they need to protect them if they end a marriage contract before becoming adults,” New York State Senator Julia Salazar, the sponsor of the bill, said. “The vast majority of minors who enter a marriage are teenage girls, and getting married before adulthood often has devastating consequences for them.”
Between 2000 and 2018, almost 300,000 minors were legally married in the United States. The youngest minor to marry was ten years old. 86% of the underage children were girls that were married to men that were at least four years older.
The Northern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union says that outright banning underage marriage will hinder youth of their rights — especially when it comes to young people exiting the foster care system through emancipation and establishing their families.
Regardless, UNICEF, an agency that helps nations improve health and education for children and their mothers, believes that “girls who marry before age 18 are harmed for life.”
“I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill to finally prohibit child marriage without exceptions in New York,” Salazar said.
The New York law will take effect in 30 days.