RIVER VALE, N.J. -- New Jersey moved closer Monday to banning anyone under 18 from getting married or entering into a civil union in the state, under a bill sponsored in the Assembly by Rep. Holly Schepisi of Bergen County.
The General Assembly approved the bill. A similar measure was introduced in the state Senate. If both houses approve it, the bill simply needs Gov. Christie's signature to become law.
More than 90 percent of the nearly 3,500 minors married in New Jersey from 1995 to 2012 were to adults, records show. Most of them were 16 or 17 with parental consent -- but 163 were 13 to 15, requiring a judge's approval.
“Getting married is one of the most important decisions a person will make in their lifetime," Schepisi said. "It requires a certain level of maturity that minors don’t possess.
“Marriage is difficult enough for two consenting adults," she sadded. "Children marrying children is a recipe for failure.”
The bill should also help reduce the number of “forced marriages” in some cultures in which minors, sometimes as young as 14 or 15, are coerced into marrying an adult with their parent’s consent, Schepisi emphasized.
“No one, under any circumstances and regardless of age, should be forced into a marriage,” she said. “Unfortunately, most states do not prohibit such marriages. This measure will.”
New Jersey law currently allows minors as young as 16 to marry with a parent’s or guardian’s consent. A Superior Court judge must also approve the move if the person is under 16.
The proposed law eliminates both.