Update 2: On 10/21, the Christie administration withdrew its appeal of the court ruling allowing same sex marriage in New Jersey.
Update 1: To understand the legal road to gay marriage in New Jersey, read our new article, Status of Same-Sex Marriage in New Jersey.
Same sex marriages in New Jersey can begin this Monday, October 21, the state’s Supreme Court ruled today. Justices on the state’s highest court were unanimous in denying the Christie administration’s request to issue a stay of a lower court ruling allowing gay couples to marry. (The details of the initial ruling can be found here: Judge: Gay Couples in New Jersey Can Marry As Early As October 21).
“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 written by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. “The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative.”
While the administration’s appeal will still be heard sometime next year, in the meantime, “state officials shall therefore permit same-sex couples, who are otherwise eligible, to enter into civil marriage beginning on October 21, 2013,” the justices decided.
Already on Thursday, even prior to the decision being handed down, some New Jersey municipalities started accepting marriage license applications from same-sex couples. Because the state has a mandatory 72-hour waiting period before getting married, those who applied on Thursday may be able to wed as early as 12:01 a.m. Monday.
That’s likely to be the case in Lambertville, where Mayor David DelVecchio said he hopes to officiate the state’s first legal same sex wedding, between residents Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey. DelVecchio was also on hand in 2007 when the two became among New Jersey’s first couples to be granted a civil union.
Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s leading marriage equality advocacy group, told the AP it was lining up judges who could waive the 72-hour waiting period for couples who wish wed on Monday. Garden State Equality also pointed out that the waiting period does not apply to already married couples who wish to simply reaffirm their vows. This means that same sex couples in New Jersey who were wed in New York, for example, could choose to marry again for the sake of having a marriage license from their own state of residence.
The court did not address the question of what would happen to the status of same-sex marriages entered into next week if it later decides that the state does not have to grant the marriages.
What does this mean for you? If you are in a same sex relationship, especially if you are already entered into a NJ civil union, we know you have questions. Does the legalization of gay marriage in New Jersey mean civil unions are no longer valid? What about couples in civil unions who now wish to marry? Do you have to go through dissolution first?
Rest assured that as this story unfolds, we are working to provide you with all the details we can, as soon we can. Stay tuned for updates!