The New York State Senate today passed legislation to end child marriage. The bill (S4407A), sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza (R-C-I, Staten Island) would prohibit the marriage of minors under 17 years of age and require 17-year-olds to get court approval for marriage.
Senator Lanza said, “Sadly, under present New York State law, children as young as 14 years old, usually girls, are coerced or forced into marriage across New York State. This bill would prevent this unconscionable act from occurring in our state.”
While current law states that the minimum marriage age in New York is 18, children aged 14-17 may wed with parental consent, and 14 and 15-year-olds require judicial approval as well.
In addition to increasing the minimum age for marriage to 17, this bill puts checks in place to ensure that parental consent isn’t parental coercion. It also addresses concerns about the lack of meaningful procedures and guidelines in the current law's judicial approval process to ensure that the minor is making an informed decision based only on her or his own views and wishes.
At least 3,850 children between the ages of 14 and 18 were legally married between 2000 and 2010 in New York State, and 84 percent of these marriages wed a girl to an adult man. 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.
The bill has been sent to the Assembly.