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Gov. Christie Declines to Ban Child Marriage Because It ‘Would Violate’ Some ‘Religious Traditions’

New Jersey legislators decided to do something about the topic of child marriage and passed a bill that would prevent marriage of any child under age 18.

Governor Chris Christie was given the opportunity to make New Jersey the first state to officially ban child marriage without exception.

Nancy Munoz, the bill’s main sponsor, is a Republican assemblywoman fro Union. She introduced the bill after hearing testimony in committee hearings about children being forced into marriage “for religious reasons.”

Under current New Jersey law, children under age 16 can be legally married with parental consent and approval from a sympathetic judge.

Christie conditionally vetoed the bill and sent it back to the legislature with proposed changes. He recommended that an exception be provided that would allow judges to approve marriages for 16 and 17 year olds.

As part of his rationale for not signing the bill into law. Christie cited religious customs that conflict with the intent of the bill.

I agree that protecting the well-being, dignity, and freedom of minors is vital, but the severe bar this bill creates is not necessary to address the concerns voiced by the bill’s proponents and does not comport with the sensibilities and, in some cases, the religious customs, of the people of this State.”

Opponents of the bill argued that exceptions should remain for young members of the military and pregnant teenagers who do not want children born out of wedlock. Those 17 year olds are able to enlist in the military with parental consent.

In most states, the minimum age for marriage is 18, though every state offers legal loopholes that allows those younger to wed. Reuters has reported that underage marriage is more widespread than the public may think, with around 170,000 children wed between 2000 and 2010 in 38 of the 50 states where data was available.

The bill as it was already approved by both houses of the legislature would have made New Jersey the first state to outlaw child marriage altogether, according to Unchained At Last, a group that opposes arranged and forced marriages.”

Mr Christie conditionally vetoed the measure, sending it back to the state legislature with proposed changes. He said it should have an exception so a judge can approve marriages for 16- and 17-year-olds.

“An exclusion without exceptions would violate the cultures and traditions of some communities in New Jersey based on religious traditions,” Mr Christie said in a statement.

Despite disappointments expressed by those supporting the legislation, the bill might still become law if the legislature sends it to back to Christie with his recommendations included. Other options include the legislature letting the bill die or voting to override the veto.

To this point, no Christie veto has ever been overridden.

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