Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have banned child marriage in New Jersey. His explanation: ‘conflicts with religious customs.’
Under the A3091 Bill, the Garden State would have seen an outright ban of minor marriages and make it the first state in the nation to implement this ban without exception.
“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,” Christie says, in an attempt to justify his veto.
The governor’s reasoning is flawed, according to patheos.com. There are no “religious customs” offering a moral justification for child marriage. Reasonable people assume that any custom that forces or permits child marriage is in fact immoral.
While Christie did not specify what “religious traditions” he was referring to, both Muslims and Christians believe child marriages, often arranged and even against the will of the minors involved, are appropriate.
Republican Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz was the top sponsor of the measure and at a committee hearing last year, she says she introduced the bill after hearing “compelling” stories of minors forced into marriages for religious reasons, Politico says.
Under current New Jersey law, children under 16 can legally marry with parental consent and approval from a sympathetic judge.
As for Christie’s vetoed legislation, The New Jersey Law Journal reports: “The bill—sponsored by Munoz, R-Union, and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer—passed both chambers of the Legislature with only token opposition.”
“Marriage is a legal contract and it should be reserved for adults,” says state Sen. Nellie Pou, D-Passaic. “It is startling for people to learn that there are many underage marriages happening here in New Jersey. As a state, we have a responsibility to protect our residents, moral obligation to protect children and this bill takes the necessary steps to do that.”
True Jersey notes that those who oppose the ban worry that pregnant teenagers wouldn’t be able to get married and their child would be “born out of wedlock.”
Of child marriage, Reuters reports that in the US it is not as uncommon as many Americans would like to believe.
Almost 250,000 children, mostly girls, were married in the United States between 2000 and 2010.
At the end of the day: There is no moral justification for child marriage. Period.