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TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday (Oct. 21) that he was dropping the fight against same-sex marriage in New Jersey by withdrawing his his appeal of a major case that was being heard by the state Supreme Court.
Starting one minute after midnight, gay couples have been getting married after the Supreme Court refused on Friday to delay the first weddings while it heard Christie’s appeal of a lower-court ruling that legalized gay marriage last month.
Christie said the court, in rejecting his plea for a stay, had made strong statements that settled the larger case.
Colin Reed, a spokesman for Christie, said that Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, writing for the court in a 7-0 opinion last Friday, “left no ambiguity about the unanimous court’s view on the ultimate decision in this matter when he wrote, ‘same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today.’”
But at the same time, Christie sharply criticized the court for stepping in and ruling on the case. The Republican governor, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has maintained that he wanted voters to take up the issue on the ballot.
“Although the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law,” Reed said.
“The governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court.”
The Supreme Court on Friday appeared to address all the major issues underlying the case, rejecting Christie’s legal arguments and emphasizing he was unlikely to win if he continued appealing a Sept. 27 decision by Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson, which found that gay couples were being denied equal rights “every day” in New Jersey.
Jacobson’s was the first state court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June. The move extended hundreds of tax, medical and other legal benefits to same-sex couples, but only in states that provided them “lawful marriages.” As a civil union state, New Jersey was left out, the Supreme Court ruled Friday.
Meanwhile, as New Jersey became the 14th state to allow same-sex marriage, pairs of brides and grooms tied the knot in joyous ceremonies that celebrated love while mindful of their newly granted legal status.
“It’s a historic day,” said Amy Quinn, an attorney and councilwoman in Asbury Park who married her partner, Heather Jensen, on the boardwalk just after midnight. “To be able to get married in my home state, in a town that I adore, to be able to get married by friends, with friends, around friends, it’s such an amazing experience.”
Quinn and Jensen, who have been together 10 years, were married in New York in June. At the time, Quinn said, she wasn’t certain she’d ever have a chance to wed in her home state.
Gabriela Celeiro and Elizabeth Salerno received a waiver from the normal 72-hour waiting period between obtaining a license and getting married because they did not want to wait one moment longer than absolutely necessary.
“I want to get something in paper that this actually happened,” Salerno said before heading to Newark’s city hall with her partner where they were to be married by Mayor Cory Booker.
Booker was marrying the first of several couples when someone attempted to disrupt the ceremony.
The mayor had asked if anyone had reason to object to the marriage and a protester screamed: “This is unlawful in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ.”
Booker, who was elected to the U.S. Senate last week, called for the person to be removed and police dragged him out.
As Booker continued speaking, “.not hearing any substantive and worthy objections,” thunderous applause erupted.
David Gibson and Rich Kiamco, who have been together for 10 years, were among the first couples in Jersey City to be married. Their City Hall ceremony was officiated by Mayor Steve Fulop.
Earlier in the day, the two men — who have been married in New York state — marveled at how fast gay marriage had turned from being a political liability into a benefit — at least in New Jersey, where polls show strong support.
“If you dial the talk back for a decade, gays and lesbians were used as an issue in the Bush campaign in 2004. I think gay issues — and maybe it was gay marriage — became a wedge issue that helped get him victory,” Gibson said.
(Salvador Rizzo and Dan Goldberg write for The Star-Ledger in Newark.)
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