New Jersey 101.5 video

TRENTON — Proposed legislation that would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from getting married was approved Monday by the Assembly.

The bipartisan legislation seeks to end the current practice of allowing children, usually girls and some as young as 13, from getting married as long as they have parental consent or approval from a Family Court judge if they're younger than 16.

An estimated 3,000 children were married in New Jersey between 1995 and 2012. Nine out of 10 were girls who were married to adult men.

Advocates and sponsors of the proposed law saw underage marriages are usually forced and sometimes lead to harmful abuse.

At its most basic sense, marriage is a legal contract that should be reserved for two consenting adults, plain and simple.

“Most people would probably be surprised at how many underage marriages occur, not just in the United States, but right here in New Jersey, some even as young as 13 or 14,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer. “At its most basic sense, marriage is a legal contract that should be reserved for two consenting adults, plain and simple.”

"In love or not, people should be old enough to understand the commitment and its ramifications,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R—Monmouth. “Even more important, this legislation addresses the ‘forced marriages’ that continue to occur in current-day society.”

Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of Unchained At Last, a Westfield nonprofit that helps women escape forced marriages, says setting the limit at 18 years old protects underage girls who don't have access to domestic violence shelters and attorneys.

The bill awaits action by the state Senate.

Sign Up For The WOBM Newsletter