Call Governor Christie to thank him for conditionally vetoing this bill.
Also, thank Senator Mike Doherty for taking a strong position against this bill and pointing out its flaws, 908, 835-0552.
Christie rejects ban on marriage for N.J. teens under 18
TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday rejected a bill that would have barred teenagers from getting married in New Jersey until they turn 18, suggesting instead that lawmakers tighten the state’s current marriage restrictions on minors.
Christie’s move prevents New Jersey from becoming the first state in the U.S. to remove all exceptions that require minors to wait until they are 18 to wed.
Supporters of the bill (A3091) say it was designed to protect girls from being forced into arranged marriages.
In his veto message, Christie wrote that “protecting the well-being, dignity, and freedom of minors is vital, but the severe bar this bill creates is not necessary to address the concerns voiced by the bill’s proponents and does not comport with the sensibilities and, in some cases, the religious customs, of the people of this state.”
Instead, Christie suggested lawmakers amend the measure to bar anyone under 16 from getting married and require a judge to approve a marriage license for anyone 16 or 17.
“An exclusion without exceptions would violate the cultures and traditions of some communities in New Jersey based on religious traditions,” the Republican governor wrote.
Under current New Jersey law, those who are 16 and 17 can obtain marriage licenses with the consent of their parents. Those under 16 need both parental consent and approval from a judge.
Christie also said it’s “disingenuous” that a 16-year-olds would be banned from marriage when they are allowed in New Jersey to consent to sex and obtain an abortion without parental knowledge.
Christie’s veto is a conditional veto, meaning the state Legislature can choose to make his changes and send a new version of the bill to the governor’s desk.
The state Assembly passed the measure 64-0-7 in November, and the state Senate passed it 26-5 in March.
Unchained At Last, a non-profit organization that helps young women and girls leave forced marriages, testified at committee hearings that teenage marriage associated with some conservative religions is more widespread than people think. Between 1995 and 2012, nearly 3,500 minors got married in New Jersey.
“Marriage is a legal contract and it should be reserved for adults,” state Sen. Nellie Pou (D-Passaic), a sponsor, said in March. “It is startling for people to learn that there are many underage marriages happening here in New Jersey. As a state, we have a responsibility to protect our residents, and moral obligation to protect children and this bill takes the necessary steps to do that.”
But opponents said one issue with the measure was that it would prevent some pregnant teenagers from getting married so their child is not born out of wedlock.
NJ Advance Media staff writer Susan K. Livio contributed to this report. Brent Johnson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.