Governor signs child marriage ban

Courtesy of the Governor’s Office

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Tuesday afternoon raising the age of consent to marry from 14 years old to 17 years old.

The governor announced in February that raising the marriage age was a priority for this session and with the Assembly and Senate delivering legislation, he made good on his pledge with a bill signing ceremony in the Red Room in the Capitol.

“This administration has worked tirelessly to defend exploited and disadvantaged New Yorkers, provide minors with the rights and protections that they deserve, and ensure that woman are empowered to have control over their own lives,” said Gov. Cuomo. “and with this legislation, we continue to help protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

Research shows that women who marry before the age of 19 are 50 percent more likely than their unmarried peers to not finish high school, as well as 4 times more likely not to complete college. They also suffer higher risk of mental and physical illness and are are 31 percent more likely to live in poverty when they are older.

“Children who are 14 and 15 years old should be worrying about their schoolwork and spending time with their friends, not whether they have to get married,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, sponsor of the Assembly measure which passed on June 8. “Girls marrying much older men are being abused physically, mentally and emotionally. Marriage at such a young age destroys the lives of young girls. I am relieved we have changed this outdated law so that we can end this intolerable practice.”

The law on the books, until Tuesday, was passed in 1929 and allowed children as young as 14 to be married with parental permission as well as permission from a judge. Critics of the old law pointed out that there were no guidelines by which a judge should asses the appropriateness of a marriage in which a minor is a participant.

The new law bans all marriages of minors under the age of 17 and provides guidance for judges deciding if the marriage of a 17 year old, stipulating that they cannot be compelled by “force, fraud, coercion,” and that the decision will not “endanger the mental, emotional of physical safety of the applicant.”

The law takes effect on July 4, thirteen days after it became law, as stated in the bill’s text.