New York State Assembly Ups Age of Consent for Marriage in Update to Child Marriage Law

J.M. Lesinski

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In New York state, the age of consent to marry is set to go up once more, expanding on the previously passed Child Marriage Law signed into law back in 2017.

The New York State Assembly recently announced the passage of legislation building on to the law prohibiting the marriage of anyone under the age of eighteen. In said law, seventeen-year-olds are still permitted to marry with a judge’s permission, while the new legislation seeks to raise the age for marriage to eighteen across the board with absolutely no exceptions.

“Child marriages have been determined by the U.N. to be akin to slavery, and it has no place in our state or in our country,” New York State Assembly Member Phil Ramos commented on the legislation. “Raising the age of consent to marry from fourteen to eighteen was necessary and right, and I am glad that we are taking the final step to ensure that all New York’s children are protected from being forced into a marriage under-age.”

“Child marriage is a harmful practice that affects millions of girls around the world. Girls have the right not to be married off, and the right not to be subjected to sexual violence which often accompanies child marriage,” said Global Lead of the Legal Equality and Access to Justice, Equality Now Antonia Kirkland. “With this legislation, vigorously supported by the NY Coalition to End Child Marriage organized by Unchained at Last, New York State has taken an important step to prevent child marriage here, and globally. This legislation also upholds the spirit of international law and human rights standards to which the United States is bound.”

Back in 2017, New York state officially raised the age of consent for marriage to eighteen from fourteen but maintained an option for judges to decide whether or not a seventeen-year-old could marry. The legislation passed by the New York State Assembly would in turn eliminate this judicial option and firmly set the age of consent to marry in New York at eighteen years old.

“It was critical to the safety of children, and particularly girls, in New York that we raised the age of consent to marry to eighteen,” noted Judiciary Committee Chair and New York State Assembly Member Charles D. Lavine of the legislation. “This legislation will ensure that that is the case for all of our children by ending the exception for certain seventeen-year-olds.”

“Our children deserve to have a childhood – which is taken away from them when they marry while still actual children,” New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said of the legislation passed. “We made huge steps in protecting children, and girls especially, from being forced into marriages in 2017. Today’s legislation furthers that, removing a provision that allows seventeen-year-olds to marry at a judge’s discretion.”

Many have already lauded the New York State Assembly’s decision, citing the human rights violations that often accompany underage marriages, and urging New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill into law.

“I join advocates and survivors across New York and beyond in applauding the Legislature for moving quickly to pass this child marriage ban,” said Fraidy Reiss, the Founder and Executive Director of Unchained at Last. “We urge Governor Cuomo to quickly sign this into law and end this human rights abuse.”

“This is a very important step by the New York Legislature, and we urge Governor Cuomo to sign the bill and make New York the fifth state to end child marriage,” Interim Women’s Rights Co-Director at Human Rights Watch Heather Barr commented of the legislature. “Child marriage is a serious human rights violation that needs to end all around the world—including in New York.”

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I have worked as a professional journalist for over five years now, covering the arts, music, food, politics, and culture up and down both coasts of the United States. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Fredonia with minors in Psychology and Creative Writing, as well as an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from California State University, Fresno.

Buffalo, NY
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