New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation this week raising the age of consent to be married in the state to 18, banning all minors.
"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 in a news release Thursday after signing the legislation
"Children should be allowed to live their childhood," he said.
Cuomo signed legislation in 2017 that raised the age of consent to marry from 14 to 18, but 17-year-olds could be married with “parental and judicial consent."
Democratic state Sen. Julia Salazar, who sponsored the new legislation in the New York Senate, thanked Cuomo for signing the bill into law “to finally prohibit child marriage without exceptions.”
"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. The vast majority of minors who enter a marriage are teenage girls, and getting married before adulthood often has devastating consequences for them,” she said in a statement Thursday.
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The legislation will take effect 30 days after becoming law. It would level a fine and a misdemeanor charge against those who issued marriage licenses to individuals under 18.
New York is the sixth state in the country to ban marriages involving a minor.
Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee signed legislation last month barring marriages by anyone under 18. Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania all ban minors from marrying.
Nearly 300,000 individuals under 18 were legally married in the USA from 2000 to 2018, according to a study from Unchained at Last, an organization that advocates against forced and child marriage, that Salazar cited Thursday.
Nearly all of the minors in the study were 16 or 17, though some were as young as 10. Most of the children were married to adult men an average of four years older.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Child marriage: New York bans all minors from being able to marry