A bill sponsored by Bergen and Passaic democrats that combats forced child marriages is headed to Gov. Chris Christie's desk.
The bill (A-3091) received approval from full New Jersey Senate by a 26-5 vote Monday and is sponsored by Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic), former Paramus Councilman Joseph Lagana of Ridgefield (D-Bergen/Passaic), Reed Gusciora and Pamela Lampitt.
If passed, the bill would bar the issuance of marriage or civil union licenses to anyone under the age of 18, regardless of parental or judicial consent.
Under current 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.
“It’s shocking to even think that in New Jersey in 2016, child marriages still occur,” Lagana said. “Sadly, they do and usually it’s to the detriment of young girls who have no say in the matter. This bill will stop that basic human right violation from occurring right here at home.”
The bill is intended to address the problem of forced child marriages, according to a press release.
A survey by the Tahirih Justice Center, an NGO that provides services to immigrant women and girls, identified as many as 3,000 known or suspected forced-marriage cases throughout the United States between 2009 and 2011, many involving girls under age 18.
“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,” Oliver said.
“This is about preserving basic human rights and ensuring that young girls, in particular, are not forced into marriage against their will.”