Governor expected to sign child marriage ban

Gazette file photo
Supporters of banning child marriage demonstrating. Both houses have passed legislation raising the legal age of marriage and its expected to be signed into law by Governor Cuomo.

As a way to end forced marriages in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign a bill passed late last week that bans marriage for children under the age of 17, and requires 17-year-olds to get court approval after a thorough review process.

Cuomo released a statement on Thursday voicing his support for the bill (S.4407-b/A.5524-b), which is sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin.

“I commend the Assembly and the Senate for passing legislation that puts an end to child marriage in New York once and for all. This is a major step forward that will protect children, [and] prevent forced marriages,” said Cuomo.

The new law will make it illegal for children ages 14, 15 and 16 to get married in New York state. The previous age of consent for marriage was 14 which allowed for roughly 3,853 minors to get married between 2000 and 2010, with 84 percent of those marriages wedding a girl to an adult male.

The bill sponsors say many of these marriages come with significant age differences, which can subsequently lead to negative effects on the child’s health and education, and an increased likelihood of domestic violence predominantly affecting girls.

Legislators unanimously passed the bill in the Senate and the Assembly. The bill has been delivered to the Governor’s Office and is pending his signature.

The current law states that anyone between the ages of 14 to 17 may get married with parental consent. Children who are 14 and 15 require court approval. But the bill sponsors say the court approval process has not provided adequate protections for a child against abuse and fraud on the part of parents or guardians to force a child into marriage.

This legislation will strengthen the process by appointing an attorney for the child who received training in domestic violence, including a component on forced marriage. The new law will also require a thorough review of orders of protection and the sex offender registry to ensure the child is not wed to a person on those lists. Finally, an on-camera interview, separately and alone with each minor party, will be required before approval is given.

“Governor Cuomo has been very clear that child marriage is a scourge on our New York values. At a time when the fundamental rights of women are under attack by the Trump administration, this legislation to save girls from forced marriage is needed more than ever,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women.