ALBANY – Legislation to prohibit anyone under 17 years old from marrying has been given final approval in the state Legislature.
The Senate OK'd the measure earlier this week and the Assembly gave its unanimous support to the new marriage age limits on Thursday.
Current law sets the age of consent at 18, though children aged 14 can marry in New York if they have parental consent and court approval.
The new measure, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign into law in the next 10 days, permits 17-year-olds to marry only if they have written consent by parents, or guardians, and a judge; those judges would also have to personally interview the minor before allowing them to marry. Those under age 17 are banned from getting married in New York under the new measure.
Advocates pushing the measure have estimated that nearly 4,000 minors were married in New York between 2000 and 2010, and more than 84 percent of those were girls married to adult men. Those pushing the measure say it will help reduce forced marriages and sexual trafficking.
“An adult can sexually abuse a child and avoid statutory rape charges by marrying the child," Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a Westchester County Democrat, said earlier this year in introducing the legislation. "If an adult has sex with someone 16 or younger it is statutory rape but if the adult marries the child, then he can force her to have non-consensual sex whenever he wants. A child under 17 does not have the capacity to consent to sex under our penal law.’’
The measure was sponsored in the Senate by Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island Republican.
“Child marriage is a human rights violation that fosters gender inequality and exploitation and whose victims are three times more likely to suffer domestic violence, are much less likely to complete their education and are not able to bring divorce or annulment in their own names,’’ said Judy Harris Kluger, a former state judge who is executive director of Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit that helps domestic violence victims and which pushed for the legislation.
“Marriage is rightfully a milestone of adulthood, not childhood,’’ she added.
Cuomo, who joined the push for the bill earlier this year, called it “shocking” that state law currently permits 14-year-olds to be married. Signaling his signature on the bill will come after lawmakers submit it to him, Cuomo said he backs the end of an “intolerable practice” that has helped spur forced marriages involving teens.
The Senate sent Cuomo the bill Thursday afternoon, starting a 10-day clock for him to sign it into law.