My Child Marriage Bill Was Sent To The Governor To Be Signed Into Law

I am proud to announce that A.5524-B/S.4407-B, legislation I authored, was passed by both the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate this week and will now be sent to Governor Cuomo to be signed into law.

The bill would prohibit the marriage of minors under the age of 17 and strengthen the process to obtain court approval for marriage of persons at least 17 years of age but under 18 years of age.

The current minimum age to marry in New York State is 14. If a child is 16 or 17, she can marry with parental consent.  If a child is 14 or 15, she can marry with parental consent and the approval of the court. Current law enables children to be forced into marriage by their parents who bring their children before the court or the court clerk to provide their “consent” when in reality the parents have forced their child to marry, threatening the child with ostracism, beatings or death if the child refuses to marry.

Children who are 14 and 15 years old should be worrying about their schoolwork and spending time with their friends. They are much too young to be married. We are seeing girls getting married to much older men who are being abused physically, mentally and emotionally. This is an appalling practice that destroys the lives of young girls.

How has it been possible that we allow a 14-year-old to get married yet we don’t allow her any practical ways out? She can’t sue for divorce in her own name. Under current law, she has to sue for divorce through a parent, who likely forced her into the marriage in the first place, or through a guardian. We have needed to address this for a long time.

According to Fraidy Reiss, executive director and founder of Unchained At Last, nearly 4,000 minors were married in New York between 2000 and 2010 and more than 84 percent of those children were minor girls married to adult men.  Unchained At Last is the only nonprofit in the U.S. dedicated to helping women and girls leave or avoid arranged/forced marriages. 

“This bill is an important first step toward ending the human rights abuse of child marriage in New York State,” Reiss said. “I applaud Assemblywoman Paulin for her leadership.”

The current court approval process for the authorization of marriage of persons under 16 hasn’t provided adequate protections for a child against abuse and fraud on the part of parents or guardians to force a child into marriage. This legislation will strengthen the process for marriage of persons at least 17 but under 18 by, among other things, requiring the appointment of an attorney for the child who must have received training in domestic violence including a component on forced marriage, and requiring the court to hold an in camera interview, separately with each minor party, and make specific written findings.   The bill also provides that if the court approves the marriage, each minor party will have all the rights of an adult, including the right to enter into a contract, except for specific constitutional and statutory age requirements.

“New York is poised to lead the nation in recognizing child marriage as a human rights violation,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women of New York. “Governor Cuomo has been very clear that child marriage is a scourge on the values we hold dear in New York. It’s not a surprise that he will be signing into law the strongest protections in the nation. We urge the rest of the country to follow suit.”

“Child marriage is a human rights violation that fosters gender inequality and exploitation and whose victims are three times more likely to suffer domestic violence, are much less likely to complete their education and are not able to bring divorce or annulment in their own names,” said Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families. “Sanctuary for Families has seen the deleterious effect it has had on our clients. We thank Assemblywoman Paulin and Senator Lanza for their leadership and applaud the New York State Legislature’s swift action to halt this unacceptable and outmoded practice. Marriage is rightfully a milestone of adulthood, not childhood.”

Andrew Lanza sponsored the bill in the Senate.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thoughts on Governor Cuomo’s Proposed Budget

The new fiscal year is almost upon us and on Tuesday Governor Cuomo presented his budget, one that would eliminate the $1.3 billion budget gap. Cuomo’s budget, having yet to look at every detail, appears sound.

For starters, the budget gap would be closed without taxes being raised. All New Yorkers, particularly my constituents, should, I would think, greet this news with a smile. This marks the third consecutive year that the Executive Budget closes the budget gap without any new taxes or fees.

Another issue that the Governor addressed is educational aid. He’s proposing an increase of $889 million in aid. Included in that amount is $25 million to support a full-day pre-kindergarten program targeted toward higher need students in lower wealth school districts via a competitive process. The Executive Budget also allots $11 million to offer $15,000 in annual stipends for four years to the most effective teachers, beginning with math and science teachers.

These education proposals also include a “Bar Exam for Teachers”. To ensure the best and brightest are teaching our children, the State Education Department will increase the standards for teacher certification to require passage of a “bar exam,” in addition to longer, more intensive and high-quality student-teaching experience in a school setting.

Promoting and improving the educational standards has been a signature issue for me. I will take a particularly close look at each of the educational proposals to get a better sense of how my constituents and their children would be benefited.

The budget also calls for support of those impacted by Superstorm Sandy, including recovery and rebuilding projects, programs, and other initiatives. Specifically, there are appropriations of $21 billion for disaster-related recovery, rebuilding and mitigation. An estimated $30 billion of Federal aid will flow through these appropriations or be directly administered by the Federal government, local governments and other entities.

Communities that were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, Superstorm Irene and Tropical Storm Lee will be eligible for rebuilding and mitigation grants.

There will also be mandate relief and local government aid. The most prominent aspect of this portion of the budget is a Stable Rate Pension Contribution Option.

With Tier VI in place, there is now an opportunity to adopt an alternate pension funding mechanism – a Stable Rate Pension Contribution Option to allow local governments and school districts to lock in long-term, stable rate pension contributions for a period of years that would dramatically reduce near-term payments but still achieve full funding in each system over the long-term.

These savings will provide immediate access to the savings of Tier VI and offer local governments and school districts needed relief, improving their ability to maintain necessary services to their residents and students. Local governments that opt in would avoid volatility in contribution rates and be better able to plan for the future. The option is voluntary and requires approval from the Comptroller’s office.

I realize this is a great deal to digest. It’s just a brief overview, though, of what is clearly an outline of a more comprehensive set of issues. If you want to take a look at the entire budget go to OpenBudget.Ny.gov.

Cuomobio

Governor Cuomo

In the days and weeks ahead the budget will garner a great deal more attention and bring about, I imagine, a fair amount of debate. It should. Not everyone will agree with everything the Governor has proposed. To that end, it’s important to remember that I will review every aspect of the proposed budget, evaluated each of the items the Governor has outlined and then continue to do what I have done since taking office – make sure that my constituents are represented in the best way possible.