Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed Bill A3091 – a bill that would have banned child marriages in New Jersey. Christie cited concerns for religious traditions as his reason for vetoing the bill.
“I agree that protecting the well-being, dignity, and freedom of minors is vital, but the severe bar this bill creates is not necessary to address the concerns voiced by the bill’s proponents and does not comport with the sensibilities and, in some cases, the religious customs, of the people of this State,” Christie said in a statement to the media.
Christie has not specified what “religious customs” he was referring to; arranged marriages for minors are practiced by both Muslims and Christians. Instead, Christie has proposed putting more restrictions on the law already in place in New Jersey. In the state, 16- and 17-year-olds can get married by obtaining a marriage license, which requires parental consent. Meanwhile, children under the age of 16 can be married with a family court judge’s permission.
Many anti-abortion politicians and activists were concerned that the bill would prevent pregnant teenagers from getting married and ensure that their babies are born in wedlock.
Republican Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, the measure’s top sponsor, said she introduced the bill after hearing the stories of minors that had been forced into marriage. The bill gained overwhelming support and passed the Assembly and Senate. Since this latest development, Munoz has said that she plans to speak with both state Sen. Nellie Pou, the bill’s sponsor in the upper house, and Fraidy Reiss, executive director of Unchained At Last, the only non-profit in the US fighting to end forced marriage in America.
“Marriage is a legal contract and it should be reserved for adults It is startling for people to learn that there are many underage marriages happening here in New Jersey. As a state, we have a responsibility to protect our residents, and moral obligation to protect children and this bill takes the necessary steps to do that,” state Sen. Nellie Pou (D-Passaic) said in a statement advocating for the legislation.
Child marriage in the U.S. is not as uncommon as we are made to believe. According to Unchained, almost 250,000 children as young as 12 were married in the US between 2000 and 2010. The majority of these children were young girls that were married to older men.
“The shocking truth is that child marriage is legal right now in New Jersey, and it’s shocking that thousands of children have been married here recently, most of them minor girls married to adult men,” Reiss told an Assembly committee.
Supporting Anonymous’ Independent & Investigative News is important to us. Please, follow us on Twitter: Follow @AnonymousNewsHQ