TRENTON  - A bill sponsored by Senator Nellie Pou, Senator Loretta Weinberg and Senator Sandra Cunningham barring anyone under the age of 18 from marrying in New Jersey was signed into law today by Governor Murphy.

"Marriage is a legal contract and it should be reserved for adults," said Senator Pou, (D-Passaic/Bergen). "It is startling to learn that there are underage marriages happening in New Jersey, but there are. We have a responsibility to protect our residents and a moral obligation to safeguard children and preventing them from being forced into marriages is a social obligation we will now meet in New Jersey."

The new law, S-427, will bar the issuance of marriage or civil union licenses to anyone under the age of 18, regardless of parental or judicial consent.

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"This is an issue that needs to be addressed for the mental and physical health of young people," said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). "This law is not about telling young women what they can't do, but rather it ensures that girls - minors - are not being forced into marriages against their will. Marriage is an adult decision and minors shouldn't be asked to enter into this kind of arrangement for any reason."

The genesis for the law was media reports discussing the negative effects of marriage on young women, including a reduction in health, education and economic opportunities.

"This law is about preserving basic human rights," said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). "It may be hard for some to believe that forced marriages are happening in the United States, but they are and they happen far too often for unjust reasons. This is about protecting our young people and not putting them in an environment that could cause undue harm."