ASSEMBLY JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
ASSEMBLY, No. 3841
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
DATED: JUNE 16, 2011
The Assembly Judiciary Committee reports favorably Assembly Bill No. 3841.
This bill would repeal obsolete statutes concerning the status of women.
These statutes include N.J.S.A.37:2-1 through N.J.S.A.37:2-29, known as the “Married Women’s Property Acts,” and two other archaic statutes, N.J.S.A.3A:37-3 and N.J.S.A.37:1-5.
The “Married Women’s Property Acts,” which allow married women to own, control, and dispose of property, were first enacted in the 1800’s and represented an advance for women’s rights at the time. Prior to the statutes’ enactment, the common law had imposed restrictions on married women’s legal and property rights.
However, these statutes are no longer needed, as there is no question today that married women have equal rights to property. The New Jersey Constitution and the “Law Against Discrimination,” P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-1 et seq.) guarantee equal protection to all citizens.
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.” Some of the statutes included therein concern the validity of a will made by a married woman and the right of a married woman to sue or be sued without joining her husband in the action. Also included are statutes delineating ownership of wages and earning and clothing. A sample of one of these statutes to be repealed by the bill follows:
37:2-25. Mental incompetency of husband; conveyance of real estate by wife under order of court; bar to rights of husband
In case any married woman owning lands situate within this State, shall desire to convey the same, but shall not be able to do so by reason of the lunacy or other mental incapacity of her husband to join with her in the execution of proper deeds of conveyance therefor, it shall be lawful for the Superior Court, in an action brought for that purpose, to direct that such married woman may convey the said lands by deed or deeds executed by herself, without the concurrence of her husband .
The other two statutes that would be repealed by this bill are N.J.S.A.3A:37-3, “Bar by consent to ravisher,” and N.J.S.A.37:1-5, “Immediate marriage if arrested upon criminal charge,” which in the view of the sponsor are also demeaning relics. These statutes provide as follows:
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.