Even though the bill had been passed by both houses of the state legislature, on Thursday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie refused to sign a bill that would have made New Jersey the first state in the union to ban child marriage without exception. The bill would have banned marriage for anyone under 18.
Christie conditionally vetoed the bill, saying, "An exclusion without exceptions would violate the cultures and traditions of some communities in New Jersey based on religious traditions," and sent it back to the state legislature with a suggestion that judges should be able to approve. He also said, “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.”
Some who were against the bill said exceptions should remain for military members (as youngsters can join the military at the age of 17 given parental consent), and pregnant teenagers.
Similar legislation exists in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.
In 2011, the Tahirih Justice Center found 3,000 known or suspected cases of girls in the U.S. as young as 15 who were forced to marry under threats of death, beatings or ostracism between 2009 and 2011.
The organization Unchained At Last reported that roughly 3,500 marriages involving at least one partner under 18 took place in New Jersey from 1995 to 2012.