New Jersey could soon outlaw marriage for anyone under 18. No other state has done that.
New Jersey could become the first state in the nation to outlaw marriage for anyone under the age of 18.
A measure some have called the "ban child bride" bill is back and will likely face little resistance from lawmakers as it makes it way through the legislative process. That's because they passed a similar bill last year with overwhelming bipartisan support.
It was stopped in its tracks last year by former Gov. Chris Christie, who vetoed it, saying it was too restrictive and could infringe on religious and cultural traditions.
But New Jersey has a new governor and one the bill's sponsors expressed confidence Gov. Phil Murphy will sign it into law.
"I know Gov. Murphy would be supportive of this bill," state Sen. Nellie Pou, D-Passaic, said on Thursday. "I think it's good New Jersey is leading the way."
A Murphy spokesman, Dan Bryan, didn't immediately respond for comment on whether the governor would sign the legislation.
Here's what happened on Thursday: A state Senate panel approved the legislation. It now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
Then once the state Assembly takes similar action, the legislation will head to Murphy's desk.
The bill is pretty straightforward: It would require minors to wait until they are 18 years old to get married -- no exceptions.
Under current state law, teenagers ages 16 and 17 may marry now but only with parental consent, and children under 16 may marry only with parental consent and a state judge's approval.
Unchained At Last, a non-profit organization that helps young women and girls leave forced marriages, is among the legislation's proponents. The group told lawmakers last year that between 1995 and 2012, nearly 3,500 minors got married in New Jersey, including 163 between the ages of 13 and 15.
The practice is associated with some conservative religions.
There were some objections to the bill at Thursday's hearing.
State Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen, said the bill accomplishes "very little" because people could easily drive to neighboring states and marry. New Jersey would then have to honor those marriage licenses, he said.
And another GOP lawmaker, state Sen. Michael Doherty, said New Jersey shouldn't adopt a "one size fits all approach" to this issue. Instead, each proposed marriage should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
"We should allow exceptions with judicial oversight," Doherty, R-Warren, said.
NJ Advance Media Staff Writer Brent Johnson contributed to this report.