ALBANY — A measure to combat the legal marrying of children as young as 14 years old in New York is getting a hard push by women’s rights groups and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The little-known law led to 4,000 youths under 18 years old getting married between 2000 and 2010, with eight in 10 involving girls married to older men, said Assemb. Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), a sponsor of a bill to change the statute.
The proposal would ban “child marriages” of youths younger than 17. It would also require court approval for marriage of 17-year-olds and would prohibit marriages involving someone convicted of domestic violence or sex offenses.
Supporters including the National Organization for Women on Wednesday said the law must change to end sexual abuse and human trafficking of girls who often eventually seek divorce and end up in poverty. Opponents of Paulin’s bill have concerns on grounds of religions that practice arranged marriages.
“New York remains woefully behind on this issue,” said RoAnn Destito, Cuomo’s commissioner of general services and a former Assembly member. She said Cambodia and the Sudan have laws that require people to be older before they can be married than under New York’s law.
“It was shocking for me to hear and I was in the legislature for 19 years,” Destito said Wednesday.
The Senate quickly passed the bill on March 7 and it is already endorsed by Cuomo. The Assembly has yet to take up the measure and it remains in the Judiciary Committee.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) wouldn’t comment on any opposition or delay in taking up the bill. He said the measure hasn’t yet been discussed in closed-door conference, so it would be premature to comment on its chances of passage.