PA and NJ Loopholes Allow Legalized Child Marriage
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie caught flack from Samantha Bee for not moving forth with the bill that would have barred minors from marrying in the state. New Jersey's current legal minimum age for marrying is set at 16-years-old. The governor's reasoning for shooting down the bill was to avoid friction with religious customs, but new report from the Tahirih Justice Center notes that there are many loopholes in current state law that allows the government to threaten the safety of children on a nationwide basis. Chris Christie was touted as an Islamic child marriage sympathizer when he refused to fix the problem in New Jersey.
The marriage policy is even more murky in Pennsylvania. The state ranks as one of 25 states that have no minimum age requirement for minor marriages. Minors can legally be married at the age of 16 if the parents give their consent. Minors under the age of 16 can also be married pending approval from an Orphan's court.
The report from the Tahirih Justice Center points out that many judges vested with the power to approve such marriages are not generally required to be specialists on family, juvenile or even domestic related areas. Pennsylvania is one of the last few states that do not have requisites for the judge's specialized qualifications for presiding over such cases.
The report delivered shocking facts such as Pennsylvania state judges are given little to no guidelines in terms of making their decisions. These are judges who don't necessarily specialize in domestic issues, and without sufficient guidance on how to handle such cases. Most people hope that most judges make the right decision and not allow such child marriages to occur.
Research has shown that children who get married end up with many more mental issues, live in poverty, and become easy victims of emotional, verbal, and physical abuse - which is all noted in the report linked at the bottom of this article.
The aim of the report is to influence the legislature to create more solid, thought-out laws that protect minors and ensure that they and their rights are not being taken advantage of by loopholes in sloppy laws. One would think they didn't need a law to tell adults that they cannot marry a child, but unfortunately not everyone has morals, standards, or the ability to make a good judgement call.
A slew of other progressive states have already acted on such issues and it is the Tahirih Justice Center's hope that Pennsylvania soon follows, for the children's sake if not for anything else.
The following is a list of states where there isn’t a minimum "age floor" for child marriage in the United States as of June, 2017:
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
With the spate of other states enacting laws to protect children, there are high hopes in Pennsylvania and other states that they will follow suit.
If you need an appropriate facial expression for this article, then Tucker Carlson's "I can't believe I'm hearing this" face would be useful.