Assembly Passes Legislation to Expand Protections in the Child Marriage Law, Making 18 the Age of Consent to Marry

Speaker Carl Heastie, Judiciary Committee Chair Charles D. Lavine and Assemblymember Phil Ramos today announced that the Assembly has passed legislation that builds on a 2017 law that prohibited marriage by young teenagers, but allowed 17 year olds to marry with the permission of a judge. This would make the age of consent to marry 18 years of age in New York with no exceptions (A.3891, Ramos).

“Our children deserve to have a childhood – which is taken away from them when they marry while still actual children,” Speaker Heastie said. “We made huge steps in protecting children, and girls especially, from being forced into marriages in 2017. Today’s legislation furthers that, removing a provision that allows 17 year olds to marry at a judge’s discretion.”

“It was critical to the safety of children, and particularly girls, in New York that we raised the age of consent to marry to 18,” Assemblymember Lavine said. “This legislation will ensure that that is the case for all of our children by ending the exception for certain 17 year olds.”

“Child marriages have been determined by the U.N. to be akin to slavery, and it has no place in our state or in our country,” Assemblymember Ramos said. “Raising the age of consent to marry from 14 to 18 was necessary and right, and I am glad that we are taking the final step to ensure that all New York’s children are protected from being forced into a marriage under-age.”

In 2017, New York State raised the age of consent for marriage from 14 to 18, but retained an option for judges to determine whether or not a 17 year old individual should be permitted to marry, and was not being compelled to do so. Today’s legislation would eliminate this judicial bypass, making the age of consent to marry in New York 18 years old for all.

“I join advocates and survivors across New York and beyond in applauding the Legislature for moving quickly to pass this child marriage ban. We urge Governor Cuomo to quickly sign this into law and end this human rights abuse,” said Fraidy Reiss, founder/executive director, Unchained At Last.

“This is a very important step by the New York Legislature, and we urge Governor Cuomo to sign the bill and make New York the fifth state to end child marriage. Child marriage is a serious human rights violation that needs to end all around the world—including in New York,” said Heather Barr, interim women’s rights co-director, Human Rights Watch.

“Child marriage is a harmful practice that affects millions of girls around the world. Girls have the right not to be married off, and the right not to be subjected to sexual violence which often accompanies child marriage. With this legislation, vigorously supported by the NY Coalition to End Child Marriage organized by Unchained at Last, New York State has taken an important step to prevent child marriage here, and globally. This legislation also upholds the spirit of international law and human rights standards to which the United States is bound,” said Antonia Kirkland, global lead, Legal Equality and Access to Justice, Equality Now.