On May 9, Delaware Governor John Carney signed into law a bill that set the minimum marriage age at 18. In doing so, he made his state the first in the U.S. to ban child marriage.
On May 31, New Jersey was well on its way to follow Delaware's footsteps.
However, after what NJ.com describes as a "last-minute religious objection," the bill, A865, which would have outlawed the controversial practice in the state, was stalled.
Some members of the local orthodox Jewish community requested religious exceptions, according to a statement by State Assemblyman Gary Schaer, D-Passaic, to NJ Advance Media.
In response, Schaer requested Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) to pull the bill from the voting session's agenda — and Coughlin did just that.
The bill passed both houses of the Legislature in 2017. However, then-Republican Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed it, citing it "would conflict with religious customs." He wanted an exception for 16- and 17-year-old children.
A year later, with Christie gone, it seemed the bill would surely pass but, thanks to Democrats Schaer and Coughlin, it didn't happen.
What's more, Schaer is determined to seek the same exception Christie demanded.
"There are no special exceptions, no court involvement, no recognition of religious or ethnic tradition. It seems to me the bill could be made better and more representative of the communities throughout the state," he said. "I think the bill will almost certainly face lawsuits, and the bill can easily be improved without losing the importance of its message."
Currently, in New Jersey, 16- and 17-year-old children can easily get married with parental consent. Those under 16 can also obtain marriage certificates with parental consent and approval from a judge.
A July 2017 report found over 200,000 children, including girls as young as 10, got married in the U.S. over the last 15 years.
NJ.com cited State Health Department data, according to which "3,628 minors got married in New Jersey from 1995 and 2015, and 95 percent of them were in the 16-to-17-year-old age bracket."
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