TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that he won’t ban all teens in New Jersey under 18 from getting married, and asked lawmakers to instead require a judge’s approval for some younger teens to get a marriage license.
The Republican said in a conditional veto of a bill passed by lawmakers in March that they should change it to require a judge to approve a marriage license for a 16- or 17-year-old. He would also prohibit a marriage license for anyone under 16.
Under current state law, 16- and 17-year-olds only need parental consent. Children under the age of 16 also need a state judge’s approval.
New Jersey is among several states considering legislation this year to end or curb child marriages. Supporters say the measure is needed to protect girls from being forced into arranged marriages.
Christie said that the bill wouldn’t prevent that and that an “exclusion without exceptions would violate the cultures and traditions of some communities in New Jersey based on religious traditions.”
He added that it’s “disingenuous to hold that a 16 year old may never consent to marriage, although New Jersey law permits the very same 16 year old to consent to sex or obtain an abortion without so much as parental knowledge, let alone consent. That inconsistency in logic undercuts the alleged logic of an outright ban.”
Democratic Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who sponsored the measure, said that allowing anyone under 18 to get married concerns him.
“I think that it should be established that the person is willfully entering this matrimonial contract and not because of forced cultural or religious reasons,” Gusciora said. “I don’t know what kind of scrutiny the judiciary has given these arrangements. I think that anyone who’s getting married and they’re under 18 is just too young.”
Legislation also has been proposed in Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, Missouri, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
New Hampshire’s House rejected a bill that would have raised the minimum marriage age to 18, with Republicans arguing that it would hurt young military members and pregnant teenagers.