An Assembly panel on Thursday advanced a measure sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Annette Quijano, Connie Wagner, Linda Stender and Joan Voss that would repeal obsolete and derogatory state statutes pertaining to the status of women.
“These statutes are no longer needed since there is no question today that married women have equal rights to property,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This is about making our laws reflect the times.”
“Not only are these laws archaic and demeaning, but they’re unnecessary in this day and age,” said Quijano (D-Union). “The state constitution and our discrimination laws guarantee equal protection to all citizens.”
Among those statues that would be repealed are the “Married Women’s Property Acts,” which were first enacted in the 1800’s and represented an advance for women’s rights at the time because they allowed married women to own, control, and dispose of property. Prior to the statutes’ enactment, the common law had imposed restrictions on married women’s legal and property rights.
The repeal of the “Married Women’s Property Acts” was recommended by the New Jersey Law Revision Commission in its November 2007 report, which described the statutes as “a demeaning relic.” The bill (A-3841) would also repeal two other statutes viewed as similarly demeaning.
“Some of these statues are so outdated that they’re almost laughable,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “I bet if you asked most people today what a ravisher or jointure is, they would have no idea.”
“In much the same way we updated our laws to eliminate language that is offensive to those with mental illness or developmental disabilities, we’re doing the same for women with this law,” said Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union).
“There’s no place for this language in 2011,” said Voss (D-Bergen). “It’s high time we took these statutes off the books.”
Under the bill, the following statues would be repealed:
3A:37-3. Bar by consent to ravisher: If a wife after being ravished, consent to the ravisher, she shall be disabled and forever barred from having her jointure or dower, unless her husband is voluntarily reconciled to her and permits her to dwell with him, in which case she shall be restored to her jointure or dower.
37:1-5. Immediate marriage if arrested upon criminal charge: If a person is arrested upon a criminal charge, involving an accusation of bastardy, rape, fornication or of having had carnal knowledge of an unmarried female, and the accused person consents to marry such female, any licensing officer is authorized to immediately issue a marriage license irrespective of the provisions of sections 37:1-3 and 37:1-4 of this Title.
Excerpts from some of the statutes in the “Married Women’s Property Acts” that would be repealed include:
37:2-2. Married woman may make will: Any will or testament, made in due form of law by a married woman above the age of twenty-one years, disposing of any real or personal property, shall be as valid and effectual in law as if she were, at the time of the making thereof, and at the time of her death, an unmarried woman .
37:2-13. Wages and earnings: The wages and earnings of a married woman acquired or gained by her in any employment, occupation or trade since July fourth, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-two, or acquired or gained by her prior thereto in any employment, occupation or trade carried on separately from her husband, and all investments of such wages, earnings, money or property shall be her separate property as if she were a feme sole…
37:2-14. Paraphernalia: The paraphernalia of a married woman, being the suitable ornaments and wearing apparel of a married woman, which have come to her through her husband during coverture, shall be her separate property as if she were a feme sole.