New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill Friday that creates a total ban on all marriages for people under 18 years of age in the state. The bill was opposed by the Agudath Israel of America and other religious groups.
The bill originally passed the legislature last year, but was given a “conditional veto” by then Governor Chris Christie who said that he supported restrictions, but felt that room for exceptions must be made to accommodate the practices of certain minority communities and other special circumstances.
The bill was largely the product of lobbying by “Un-chained at Last,” a group that advocates against what it identifies as “arranged” and “forced” marriages. It is currently engaged in a campaign to introduce legislation barring minors from marrying in several states.
Murphy praised the enactment of the ban as addressing an “important human rights issue.”
This year the legislation was re-introduced, but was initially stalled through the efforts of Assemblyman Gary Schear (D-Passaic) who felt accommodations needed to be amended into the bill.
At that point, Unchained’s chief spokesperson penned an op-ed column in a prominent New Jersey newspaper, taking aim at Assemblyman Schaer, falsely accusing him of blocking the bill based on a religious imperative from the Torah and attacking both him and traditional Jewish marriage in vicious terms.
Under pressure, legislative leaders who had agreed to shelve the bill backtracked and quickly brought it for a floor vote and passed the bill by wide margins.
“I was also committed to protecting young women from inappropriate marriages and was working toward a way to do that without negating the rights of communities with different cultures,” Assemblyman Schaer told Hamodia at the time of the bill’s passage. “It’s disappointing that a ridiculous and hurtful article put an end to that effort.”