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New York Raises Marriage Age to 18

(Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office Flickr)

July 23, 2021 By Ryan Songalia

Minors in New York will no longer be able to get married.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill Thursday that officially raises the minimum age to 18. Under previous law, 17-year-olds were allowed to get married with the approval of their parents and judicial consent. The latest hike comes after the age of consent was raised in the state from 14 in 2017.

The new law aims to protect young girls who are primarily the victims of such marriages.

The bill sponsors cited a 2018 study that revealed that more than 200,000 children under the age of 18 married in the United States from 2000 to 2015. The study released by the Tahirih Justice Center, a Virginia-based non-profit that aims to protect young women from violence, found that 87 percent of them were girls.

The same study revealed that women who marry at a young age are more likely to experience psychiatric disorders and have a greater risk of developing a serious health condition. Furthermore, young women who are married between the ages of 16 to 24 are three times more likely to be victims of domestic violence.

“The vast majority of minors who enter a marriage are teenage girls, and getting married before adulthood often has devastating consequences for them,” said Sen. Julia Salazar of Brooklyn, who was the prime sponsor of the bill in the senate. “Regardless of maturity level, minors lack sufficient legal rights and autonomy that they need to protect them if they enter a marriage contract before becoming adults.”

Assemblyman Phil Ramos, who was the prime sponsor in the lower chamber, says the bill, known as Nalia’s Law after a girl who was forced into marriage at the age of 13, is a positive step to prevent abuse.

“The cruel and callous practice of child marriage has traumatized too many children to count,” Ramos, who represents a district in Long Island, said. “With the passage of this crucial legislation, minors in New York will be further protected from this predatory practice, and we can prevent stories like Nalia’s from repeating themselves.”

Queens senators Michael Gianaris, Leroy Comrie, John Liu and Jessica Ramos served as co-sponsors for the bill in the Senate. In the Assembly, Queens legislators Khaleel Anderson, David Weprin, Catalina Cruz, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Catherine Nolan, Andrew Hevesi, Jeffrion Aubry, Vivian Cook and Jenifer Rajkumar were co-sponsors.

The new law takes effect on Aug. 21 and will apply to licenses issued after that date.

The age of marital consent in most states is 18, although there are exceptions. In Connecticut and Alabama, where the age of marital consent is 18, teenagers as young as 16 can marry with parental consent. In North Carolina, a woman as young as 14 can marry with judicial consent if she is pregnant or has already given birth.

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