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TRENTON -- Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday rejected a bill that would have barred all teenagers from getting married in New Jersey before they turn 18, suggesting instead that lawmakers tighten the state's current marriage restrictions on minors.
Christie's move prevents New Jersey from becoming the first state in the U.S. to outright ban marriage before age 18, without exceptions.
Supporters of the bill (A3091) say it was designed to protect girls from being forced into arranged marriages.
In his veto message, Christie wrote that "protecting the well-being, dignity, and freedom of minors is vital, but the severe bar this bill creates is not necessary to address the concerns voiced by the bill's proponents and does not comport with the sensibilities and, in some cases, the religious customs, of the people of this state."
Instead, Christie suggested lawmakers amend the measure to bar anyone under 16 from getting married and require a judge to approve a marriage license for anyone 16 or 17.
"An exclusion without exceptions would violate the cultures and traditions of some communities in New Jersey based on religious traditions," the Republican governor wrote.
Under current New Jersey law, those who are 16 and 17 can obtain marriage licenses with the consent of their parents. Those under 16 need both parental consent and approval from a judge.
Christie also said it's "disingenuous" that a 16-year-olds would be banned from marriage when they are allowed in New Jersey to consent to sex and obtain an abortion without parental knowledge.
Christie's veto is a conditional veto, meaning the state Legislature can choose to make his changes and send a new version of the bill to the governor's desk.
Christie rejects ban on marriage for N.J. teens under 18 | NJ.com
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