A bill raising the age of consent for marriage in New York to 18 was signed into law on Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The new law is meant to build on a prior bill backed and approved by Cuomo in 2017 that was aimed at ending child marriages, but allowed for 17-year-olds to be married with the consent of parents and the courts.
"This administration fought hard to successfully end child marriage in New York and I'm proud to sign this legislation to strengthen our laws and further protect vulnerable children from exploitation," Cuomo said. "Children should be allowed to live their childhood and I thank the many legislators and advocates who worked diligently to advance this measure and further prevent forced marriages in this state."
The law approved four years ago raised the age of consent in New York from 14 to 18, with the judicial requirement for 17-year-olds in New York. The measure at the time was meant to address concerns over arranged marriages found in some religious communities that allowed teens to be married, often to older men.
"Regardless of maturity level, minors lack sufficient legal rights and autonomy that they need to protect them if they enter a marriage contract before becoming adults," said Sen. Julia Salazar, a sponsor of the bill. "The vast majority of minors who enter a marriage are teenage girls, and getting married before adulthood often has devastating consequences for them."
The new law takes effect in 30 days.
"The cruel and callous practice of child marriage has traumatized too many children to count," said Assemblyman Phil Ramos. "Nalia's Law, which will raise the age of consent for marriage to 18 and prohibit marriage if either person is underage, is named after one brave survivor of forced child marriage who I was lucky enough to meet. With the passage of this crucial legislation, minors in New York will be further protected from this predatory practice, and we can prevent stories like Nalia's from repeating themselves."