N.J. court agrees to allow same-sex marriages
Posted: 5:47 pm Fri, October 18, 2013
Same-sex marriages will begin within days in New Jersey after the state’s highest court ruled unanimously Friday to uphold a lower-court order that gay weddings must start Today and to deny a delay that was sought by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.
“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 said in an opinion by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. “The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative.”
A judge on the lower court had ruled last month that New Jersey must recognize same-sex marriage and set Today as the date to allow gay weddings. Christie, a Republican who is considered a possible 2016 presidential candidate, appealed the decision and asked for the start date to be put on hold while the state appeals.
A spokesman for Christie said that he will comply with the ruling, though he doesn’t like it.
“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,” spokesman Michael Drewniak said in a statement.
The ruling puts New Jersey on the cusp of becoming the 14th state — and the third most populous among them — to allow same-sex marriage. The advocacy group Freedom to Marry said that as of Today one-third of Americans will live in a place where same-sex marriage is legal.
It’s being debated elsewhere, too. Oregon has begun recognizing same-sex weddings performed out of state, and it is likely that voters will get a chance next year to repeal the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. The legislature in Hawaii also soon could take up a bill to legalize same-sex unions, while a similar measure has passed the Illinois Senate but not the House. Lawsuits challenging gay marriage bans also are pending in several states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
New Jersey’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, 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.
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.
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