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Same-sex marriages start in New Jersey

By Geoff Mulvihill & Samantha Henry

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:03 a.m. HST, Oct 21, 2013

LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. » Gov. Chris Christie dropped his appeal to legalized same-sex marriages today, hours after gay couples began immediately taking advantage of a court ruling that compelled the state to become the 14th in the nation to recognize same-sex nuptials.

The couples who have been together for years, and in some cases decades, joined in hastily arranged ceremonies that had remained in doubt until Friday when a unanimous state Supreme Court rejected the Christie administration's request to delay the implementation date of same-sex weddings.

Last month, a lower-court judge ruled that New Jersey must recognize gay marriages starting today.

The Republican governor, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, had been asking the state's top court to overturn that ruling, and not to force the state to recognize same-sex marriage until the appeal was resolved.

The court agreed to hear the overall case in January but announced Friday it would not delay the start of the marriages, in part because it said the state is not likely to prevail in its arguments next year.

In an email this morning, the governor's office said it was withdrawing its appeal, because the chief justice on Friday left no ambiguity about the court's view.

Christie's administration said he strongly disagrees with the court substituting "its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people." But he said Friday's ruling showed the Supreme Court was clearly going to favor same-sex marriage and that he has a constitutional duty to enforce the law.

The couples married today can receive all the state and federal benefits of marriage, giving them benefits and protections including being allowed to file tax returns jointly and Social Security survivor benefits.

In Lambertville, Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey smiled through a ceremony in the same crowded municipal courtroom where almost seven years ago they became one of the first couples in the state joined in a civil union.

"We remained optimistic and hopeful that we would be able to gather together to do the right thing, the just thing, and see our two friends get married," Mayor Dave DelVecchio, who led both the 2007 ceremony and today's, said before leading the couple of 27 years through their vows as their 13-year-old daughter served as the flower girl.

"We're floating on air," Asaro, in a salmon pink suit, said afterward. "It's like winning the Super Bowl," said Schailey, who wore a black pant suit.

At Newark's City Hall, where seven gay couples and two heterosexual couples were wed, there was a brief disruption from a protester who cried out, "This is unlawful in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ," before Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat elected last week to the U.S. Senate, declared Gabriela Celeiro and Liz Salerno "lawful spouses." After the protester was removed, the mayor, choking up, paused, put his hand over his heart and said, "This is very beautiful."

A few minutes before midnight Sunday in Jersey City, Mayor Steve Fulop gathered eight couples in the front of the city council chambers to conduct a swift mass ceremony.

"I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime," said Barbara Milton after she was married to Kay Osborn. "To have this moment of equality is overwhelming."

The newlyweds and their friends and family went into the City Hall rotunda after the ceremony for champagne and cake. As they posed for a photo with the mayor, someone yelled out, "Kiss!" and all eight couples did.

Lawmakers are still trying to override Christie's 2012 veto of the bill to allow the marriages, and the first ceremonies also served as celebrations for gay rights advocates and their allies in the Legislature.

Three state lawmakers were at Asaro and Schailey's ceremony, including Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, the state's first openly gay lawmaker and a prime sponsor of a bill to allow gay marriage.

One couple married in the first minute of the day -- possibly the first in the state -- was Marsha Shapiro and Louise Walpin, a couple for more than 20 years who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit pressing to allow same-sex marriage. Their ceremony in Elizabeth was at the home of state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, one of the main legislative champions of gay marriage. Another state senator, Loretta Weinberg, gave the couple away. And Steven Goldstein, the founder and former leader of Garden State Equality, New Jersey's most prominent gay rights group, gave a prayer.

Henry reported from Newark. Associated Press writers Angela Delli Santi in Elizabeth and Katie Zezima in Jersey City contributed to this report.

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DowntownGreen wrote:
Congratulations New Jersey! (Are THEY the new sodomy state???)
on October 21,2013 | 06:09AM
mikethenovice wrote:
I'm not against same gender marriage. just not in Hawaii. And don't forget to close the door.
on October 21,2013 | 06:21AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
You mean after you leave for Alabama?
on October 21,2013 | 06:22AM
Nala007 wrote:
MIkethenovice - please explain. You are not against marriage for same-sex couples elsewhere, just not Hawaii?
on October 21,2013 | 07:52AM
krusha wrote:
These politicians need to be a leader of all of their constituents, just just a select few. Religion has no business in government.
on October 21,2013 | 06:54AM
8082062424 wrote:
It is more then a few that oppose this life style and it not only people of faith. for many it comes down to what normal to them. . do there right should be protected also
on October 21,2013 | 07:11AM
Nala007 wrote:
Exactly how are your rights not protected, 8082062424? After marriage equality passes in Hawaii, which it will, you will still be free to believe however you wish. And if you don't believe in marriage for same-sex couples, then I am sure you won't marry a person of the same-sex (assuming you are currently single).
on October 21,2013 | 08:03AM
8082062424 wrote:
i do not believe in marriage. that said how about every one having equal protection those who do not believe in this life style have the right to say it with out them being called a hater or names. or punished for saying it.Keep it out of our schools. i do not want our school to become like the mainland where if a student say he believes this lifestyle is wrong he sent to the office and punished.. Or do not force this life style on others if some one does not want to provide a service to this kind of marriage give them that right. because when you do not you are indeed forcing this life style on them. this agenda thing is accept us or else. how about both sides facing the fact both sides have a right to there feeling and respect that
on October 21,2013 | 10:33AM
Nala007 wrote:
It really is time for opponents of equality to stop kidding themselves. The country has changed. The majority of the US public now supports marriage equality. Marriage equality is now legal in CA, WA, IA, MN, ME, VT, NH, MA, CT, RI, NJ, DE, MD, and Washington DC. Hawaii will be next and most likely IL will follow. Other states in the pipeline, PA, WV, VA, NV, NM, and OR. I am sure I am forgetting some. The train has left the station and you can't stop it. Now that the US Federal Gov't recognizes same-sex marriage, the battle is now essentially over. We just have clean up to do. You lost. Get over it and move on. Absolutely nothing will change in Hawaii for you once marriage equality passes.
on October 21,2013 | 08:07AM
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