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Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill to reform minimum marriage age laws to raise the age “floor” from 14 to 17 and put in judicial safeguards against forced marriage and other harm. With the signing of this law, New York joins Virginia, which in 2016 became the first state in the country to limit marriage to legal adults, and Texas, where a new law was signed last week, as a leader in the movement to end child marriage in the United States.

The Tahirih Justice Center – national experts on forced and child marriage in the United States – is proud to have helped shape this landmark legislation in New York, drawing on our experience drafting Virginia’s and Texas’ legal reforms and our work on over 500 forced marriage cases across the country.

Tahirih is grateful to Governor Cuomo, the bill’s legislative champions, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D) and Senator Andrew Lanza (R), and all the advocates and allies who worked hard to drive this effort forward, including Human Rights Watch, New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV), the National Organization for Women (NOW), Sanctuary for Families, and Unchained At Last.

Tahirih’s Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy, Jeanne Smoot, was honored to attend yesterday’s bill signing in Albany and issued the following statement:

“New York has taken a strong step towards preventing forced marriages and mitigating the many risks to a young person’s health, safety, and future that can come from marrying too young. Tahirih is especially pleased that the law includes a provision for which we strongly advocated that ensures that any 17-year-old granted permission to marry is emancipated – meaning that they are granted the full legal rights of an adult – prior to marriage. Limiting marriage to legal adults is not only the right thing to do, it’s smart and sound public policy.”

Tahirih has led the movement to end forced and child marriage in the United States since our groundbreaking 2011 national survey, which identified thousands of cases of forced marriage, many involving girls under age 18. We are currently collaborating with key stakeholders across the country to introduce and pass bills to address child marriage, which remains a serious problem in the United States with devastating, lifelong consequences.


Tahirih’s Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy, Jeanne Smoot, is available for comment on this topic. Please contact [email protected] to arrange an interview.