The bill proposes a ban the issuance of marriage or civil union licenses to all persons under the age of 18, regardless of parental or judicial consent in New Jersey.
A bipartisan bill sponsored by Indian American Assemblyman Raj Mukherji to combat forced child marriages was approved by a New Jersey assembly panel on Thursday.
The Bill A-865 was introduced in the assembly by Democrats Reed Gusciora, Pamela Lampitt, Raj Mukherji and Shavonda Sumter was approved by the full Assembly in November last year.
The bill, if passed into law, will ban the issuance of marriage or civil union licenses to all persons under the age of 18, regardless of parental or judicial consent. Under current New Jersey law, marriage or civil union licenses may not be issued to minors under the age of 18 unless the parents or guardian, if any, consent.
If the minor is under the age of 16, a judge of the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part must also consent to the marriage or civil union.
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The legislation will now go to the speaker of the assembly for further consideration.
There is an identical bill in the state Senate, S427, which was introduced on January 9.
“Some might think forced marriages are something that only occurs elsewhere, not in the United States, but it’s a lot more common than we think, even right here in New Jersey,” said Mukherji a Democrat in a joint press release issued by the four assembly members. “This is about preserving basic human rights and ensuring that young women, in particular, are not forced into marriage against their will.”
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Mukherji, a former deputy mayor of Jersey City, is currently serving his second term in the New Jersey assembly.
The press release release said, quoting the New York Times, more than 3,000 children under the age of 18 were married in the Garden State between 1995 and 2012. A majority of these marriages, consummated with the consent of parents, were in the age group between 16 and 17, it said.
The statement said 90 percent of the children married in New Jersey were girls, “which is consistent with global trends.”
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In addition to Mukherji, Gusciora, Lampitt, and Sumter, the bill has two other primary sponsors: Democrat Joseph A. Lagana and Republican Nancy F. Munoz.
Similar bills are pending in the neighboring New York and Maryland. In Virginia, a bill is awaiting the state governor’s signature which would prohibit minors under the age of 18 from marrying unless they petition for emancipation.