NJ Gov. drops same-sex marriage appeal
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens to a question in Trenton, N.J. Christie has dropped his appeal to legalized same-sex marriages in New Jersey. In an email sent Monday, the governor's office says it submitted a formal withdrawal to the state Supreme Court Monday morning. Last month, a lower-court judge ruled that New Jersey must recognize gay marriages starting Monday. Gay couples began exchanging vows shortly after midnight. AP photo
Beth Asaro, left, and Joanne Schailey celebrate after exchangeing vows to become the first same-sex couple married in Lambertville, N.J. history at 12:01 a.m. Monday in Lambertville, N.J. Asaro and Schailey hold the distinction of being the first couple to enter into a civil union in the state, when that law took effect in 2007. AP photo
TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that he has dropped his court appeal to legalized same-sex marriage, effectively making New Jersey the 14th state in the nation that allows same-sex weddings.
Until Monday, civil unions were legal in New Jersey, but not marriages. But a Superior Court judge had ruled last month that in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, couples in civil unions were not treated equally under the law. She ordered the state to allow marriages for gay couples beginning Oct. 21.
Christie, whose values are conservative, appealed the ruling to the state’s Supreme Court. He also asked that marriages not be allowed to begin during the appeal process.
But on Friday, in a 7-0 decision, the state Supreme Court said that same-sex couples could marry on Oct. 21, even though it would still hear Christie’s appeal. The court ruled that same-sex couples were being deprived of “the full rights and benefits the state constitution guarantees,” suggesting that Christie would lose his appeal.
That seems to have been decision enough for Christie. On Monday morning he announced that he had advised New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Hoffman to withdraw the state’s appeal in the case, Garden State Equality v. Paula Dow.
“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,” Christie’s office said in a statement. “The Governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his Administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court.”
The news added to an already festive mood in New Jersey, where gay couples started marrying at 12:01 a.m., with Senator-elect Cory Booker officiating at some of the weddings.
The pace of states legalizing gay marriage has accelerated in the past year, after three states voted to permit same-sex marriage in last year’s elections. Since then, the Rhode Island Legislature voted to allow same-sex marriages and the Delaware legislature voted to adopt a law to convert civil unions into marriages.
The Supreme Court’s decision in June striking down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act has helped gay-rights advocates in states such as New Jersey overturn bans on gay marriage through courts as well. A federal judge will hear arguments challenging Michigan’s ban on gay marriage early next year.