Delaware, New Jersey Ban Child Marriage

By Molly Zilli, Esq. on May 09, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Many cities in California have banned plastic bags at grocery stores. In Ohio, it's illegal to get a fish drunk. And in New Jersey, you are not allowed to sell handcuffs to anyone under 18. But you know what is still legal in all 50 states? Child marriage. This feels like one of those things we really should have dealt with a while back. Well, a few states are finally making it a priority, as Delaware and New Jersey race to be the first to ban child marriage entirely.

Exceptions to Minimum Age Requirements

Currently, states with minimum age requirements for marriage have exceptions to those laws. For example, although Delaware's minimum age is 18, a child of any age can get married if she is pregnant or if his or her parents give consent. According to NPR, more than 200 minors got married between 2000 and 2017 in Delaware alone, with 90 percent of those being girls who married adult men.

Previous Governor Refused to Sign New Jersey Ban

New Jersey actually passed a bill to ban child marriage in 2017. However, then Gov. Chris Christie refused to sign the measure, saying it should have an exception where a judge can approve of the marriage for 16- and 17-year-olds. "An exclusion without exceptions would violate the cultures and traditions of some communities in New Jersey based on religious traditions," his statement read. Religions with members who practice arranged or forced marriages include Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Mormons. If Christie's successor, Gov. Phil Murphy, signs the bill first, New Jersey will win the race to ban child marriage.

Governor Expected to Sign Delaware Ban

Delaware's bill would ban child marriage without exception, and their governor, Gov. John Carney, is expected to sign it. The bill's sponsor stated, "We're leaving girls with no protections. I don't want children to have to make a decision about marriage until they're 18."

If you suspect a child is being forced into marriage or is the victim of abuse, contact the authorities and an attorney familiar with your state's child marriage and abuse laws.

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