ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Legislature has overturned a state law that allows 14-year-olds to legally wed, paving the way to end child marriage in the state.
The Democratic-led Assembly passed a bill Thursday that would increase the age of marriage to 17. The Republican-led Senate passed the measure earlier this week.
New York is one of three states that allows children as young as 14 to marry with parental and judicial consent. The other two are Alaska and North Carolina.
Child advocates say the New York law can trap minors in forced marriages, sexual abuse and domestic violence.
Health department data shows that between 2000 and 2010, 3,853 minors were married in New York. Eighty-four percent were girls married to adult men.
The bill the Legislature approved would prohibit marriage for individuals under 17 years old; those ages 17 to 18 would need court approval. The bill outlines a process of interviews and statements of rights to ensure a 17 year old enters a marriage by free will.
The legislation now heads to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo for approval. Cuomo designated the proposal a top priority in February and praised the Senate and Assembly Thursday for passing legislation to end the “intolerable practice.”
“This is a major step forward that will protect children, prevent forced marriages, and create a safer, more just, New York for all,” Cuomo said in a statement.
A handful of other states have addressed the age of marriage this year. In neighboring New Jersey, the legislature passed a bill to increase the age of marriage form 16 to 18, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie.