State Supreme Court Denies Delay In Gay Marriage
The New Jersey State Supreme Court in a unanimous vote has ruled against the Christie administration and denied a stay, allowing gay marriages to begin in New Jersey on Monday.
"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 court wrote in its decision. "The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative."
The state's top court agreed last week to take up the appeal of the lower-court ruling by Judge Mary Jacobson. Oral arguments are expected Jan. 6 or 7.
In Friday's opinion, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote that the state has not shown that it is likely to prevail in the case, though it did present some reasons not to marriage to move forward now. "But when a party presents a clear case of unequal treatment, and asks the court to vindicate constitutionally protected rights, a court may not sidestep its obligation to rule for an indefinite amount of time," he wrote. "Under these circumstances, courts do not have the option to defer."
Rabner also rejected the state's argument that it was in the public interest not to allow marriages until the court has had more time to rule fully on the issue.
"What is the public's interest in a case like this?" he wrote. "Like Judge Jacobson, we can find no public interest in depriving a group of New Jersey residents of their constitutional right to equal protection while the appeals process unfolds."
While Governor Chris Christie stands firm in his belief that the decision about legalizing gay marriage in New Jersey should be up to the voters "he has instructed the Department of Health to cooperate with all municipalities in effectuating the order of the Superior Court under the applicable law," according to a statement issued by his press secretary, Michael Drewniak.
Democrat candidate Barbara Buono tweeted that she is "jubilant for all of humanity" about the court's ruling.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who has refused to perform any marriage ceremonies "on principle" during his tenure will officiate at weddings for both gay and straight couples on Monday morning at 12:01 a.m.
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) said of the ruling, “October 21st will go down in history as the day same-sex New Jersey couples were finally provided the freedom to marry, a right that millions of people in this state already have."
Garden State Equality will hold a rally at their headquarters at the First Congregational Church on South Fullerton Avenue in Montclair at 7 p.m. Governor Chris Christie declined to comment when asked by a reporter about it during a campaign stop as the ruling came down according to the Star Ledger.
Steve Goldstein, the founder of the Garden State Equality, the group that brought the suit seeking legalized gay marriage in New Jersey said, "On Monday, New Jersey will begin to tear down its Berlin Wall separating straight people who have had total freedom, and LGBT people who have not. Governor Christie, not even you have the power to resurrect that wall. 2016 may compel you to try, but the tide of history won’t let you succeed. It’s time to stop the charade of opposing the inevitable."
Openly gay Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D) said, "Equality has won out once again and I thank the Supreme Court for ruling on the side of justice.”
The state government will now have to allow weddings and work quickly through some logistical issues: Does the Monday deadline apply to when marriage licenses must be issued, or when ceremonies can take place, for instance? Normally, there's a three-day waiting period in New Jersey between getting a license and tying the knot.
And are gay and lesbian couples that have wed legally elsewhere automatically considered married in New Jersey, or do they have to fill out forms and pay fees, too?
Thirteen states, including most in the Northeast, now recognize gay marriage.