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New Jersey's Highest Court Rules Gay Marriages Can Start Monday

Friday, October 18, 2013

WNYC
Cindy Meneghin and Maureen Kilian are among six gay couples fighting for same sex marriage in New Jersey. (Terri Langford)

New Jersey’s highest court says same-sex marriages can start in the state on Monday, denying Gov. Chris Christie’s request to postpone gay marriages until the state Supreme Court rules on the governor's appeal. 

Read the Supreme Court's decision here.

The decision said, in part, "The State has advanced a number of arguments, but none of them overcome this reality: same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today. The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative," wrote Chief Justice Rabner.

In Newark, Mayor Cory Booker said he plans to officiate at some gay weddings beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday. According to a statement from Booker's office, "For more than seven years, Mayor Booker has refused all requests to officiate New Jersey marriages because gay couples have been denied that equal right. After today’s wonderful news, Mayor Booker is excited to marry both straight and gay couples in City Hall."

At first, some municipalities, including Newark, were reluctant to issue licenses because the State Registrar had sent an email to county registrars advising them not to issue them.

But within a few hours after the court released the decision, Christie’s press secretary, Michael Drewniak, directed New Jersey towns to comply with the law and issue licenses.

"The Supreme Court has made its determination. While the Governor firmly believes that this determination should be made by all the people of the State of New Jersey, he has instructed the Department of Health to cooperate with all municipalities in effectuating the order of the Superior Court under the applicable law," he said in a statement.

Christie has consistently said he opposes gay marriage. He vetoed a gay marriage law passed by the legislature in 2012. The Christie Administration appealed an earlier ruling that gay marriages must be legal in New Jersey. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on that appeal in January.

In the meantime, gay couples will be able to marry beginning Monday. There is a 72-hour waiting period between the time marriage applications are filed and weddings are performed. However, if a couple is already legally married in another state, like New York, the waiting period is waived.

One couple who fits that criteria is Lambertville City Councilwoman Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey, who were married in New York. Asaro said that she will be the first in line at 12:01 on Oct. 21. The couple were the first in the state to have a civil union ceremony in 2007. 

"We're going to open the justice center at 10 o'clock at night, we're going to have a little bit of food and nosh, then at 12:01 we'll apply for a marriage license," she said. "We'll go right into the ceremony . . . right at midnight."

Jersey City mayor Victor DeLuca said Maplewood accepted its first gay marriage application at 11:45am today — in time to perform the first gay wedding at noon Monday.

Our report from earlier today:

Christie Administration Blocking Marriage Licenses

Despite the New Jersey Supreme Court court decision rejecting a stay on gay marriages, some cities have been waiting for the go-ahead from the Christie administration before accepting same-sex marriage applications.

Yesterday,  State Registrar Vincent Arrisi sent an email to county registrars with this message:

 “At this point you cannot take applications for same-sex marriages until you hear from this office that we have the authority to do so,” Arrisi wrote.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora said it was an attempt by the Christie administration to issue a stay on same-sex marriages before the Supreme Court weighed in.

“It’s completely unfortunate that cities would adhere to an email signed by Vinny,” Gusciora said. “And for the Christie administration to take it upon themselves to say gays need not apply, is not only repugnant and outrageous, but beyond their preview as an executive. They need to carry out the law.” 

Donna Leusner with the New Jersey Department of Health says Arrisi was “merely advising" that he was "awaiting legal guidance.”

In Jersey City, the state's largest LGBTQ population, mayor Victor DeLuca met with attorneys Friday morning and decided to ignore the State Registrar's email.

"It was our opinion, and our attorney's opinion, that if the state registrar wanted to stop the issuance of marriage licenses then he needed to go to court to do that," DeLuca said. "Because the law is based on Judge Jacobson's ruling, and the judge ruled that Oct. 21 would be the first day that same sex couples could marry."

Friday evening, Arrisi sent this message: 

 

Pursuant to a recent court decision, same-sex couples must be afforded the opportunity to enter into marriage in this State.  In order to comply with the court ruling, local registrars should begin accepting marriage license applications from same-sex couples immediately.  When processing marriage applications, local registrars must ensure that same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are treated equally.  As such, same-sex couples must follow the same procedures and satisfy the same requirements that are imposed upon opposite-sex couples seeking to enter into civil marriage, including the 72-hour statutory waiting period for the issuance of a marriage license.

 

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