Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law banning all minors from getting married in New York State on Thursday, July 22.
“This administration fought hard to successfully end child marriage in New York and I’m proud to sign this legislation to strengthen our laws and further protect vulnerable children from exploitation,” Cuomo said.
Nalia’s Law, named after a survivor who was forced into child marriage, raises the age of consent for marriage from 17 to 18-years-old, four years after a previous law upped the age of consent from 14-years-of-age, according to one of the law’s sponsors.
“The cruel and callous practice of child marriage has traumatized too many children to count,” said State Assemblymember Phil Ramos (D–Long Island). “With the passage of this crucial legislation, minors in New York will be further protected from this predatory practice, and we can prevent stories like Nalia’s from repeating themselves.”
In 2017, Cuomo signed a law raising the age of consent from 14-years-old to 18-years-old but left open the possibility for those aged between 17 and 18 to get married if they got parental of judicial consent.
The new bill repeals that exception and prohibits any marriage in which either person is under the age of 18.
Anyone issuing a marriage license if one or both people are underage will be guilty of a misdemeanor and must pay $100, according to the bill.
The law change will help protect teenage girls who make up the vast majority of minors who get married, according to state Senator Julia Salazar (D–Brooklyn) the bill’s sponsor in the upper legislative chamber.
“The vast majority of minors who enter a marriage are teenage girls, and getting married before adulthood often has devastating consequences for them,” said Salazar. “Regardless of maturity level, minors lack sufficient legal rights and autonomy that they need to protect them if they enter a marriage contract before becoming adults.”
The bill kicks into effect 30 days after becoming law and will apply to licenses issued after that date and marriages that had not been marked with a formal ceremony before that date.