Murphy signs New Jersey child-marriage ban vetoed by Christie

Phil Murphy. (Bloomberg/Getty Images)

TRENTON: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill disallowing anyone under 18 to marry, a proposal opposed by some religious leaders as similar measures take root nationally.

Supporters of the bipartisan legislation said they wanted to stop parents from forcing their children to wed. Orthodox Jewish leaders had said the ban would interfere with custom.

“Marriage is a loving bond between two people,” Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, a Republican from Summit who was among the bill’s sponsors, said in an emailed statement. “Forcing young girls into arranged marriages is harmful and a violation of their basic human rights.”

New Jersey law previously allowed 17-year-olds to marry with parental consent, and those 16 and under with a judge’s approval. New Jersey’s fastest-growing municipality, Lakewood, is home to the world’s largest Orthodox Jewish yeshiva outside Israel. Its scholars maintain a tradition of marrying young and having large families.

Former Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, last year had vetoed the bill, saying it didn’t “comport with the sensibilities and, in some cases, the religious customs, of the people of this state.” Murphy, a Democrat, signed the bill, according to spokesman Dan Bryan.

Delaware in May became the first US state to enact such legislation. Florida’s minimum age rose to 17 in March under legislation signed by Republican Governor Rick Scott. Lawmakers in New Hampshire, Maryland, Tennessee and Kentucky also have taken on the issue.