New Jersey to hold first gay marriages
New Jersey prepared to officiate its first same-sex marriages Monday -- the 14th US state to legalize such unions, though the legal battle is set to continue.
Many couples planned to tie the knot at precisely one minute after midnight (0501 GMT) Monday, the first day the unions were to be allowed after a judicial ruling last month.
Republican Governor Chris Christie has appealed the judge's decision, and the case is set to be heard in early January.
But the state's supreme court on Friday refused to block the marriages in the meantime, so couples hoping to be among the first in the state to legally wed have been making feverish preparations over the past three days.
And despite the governor's opposition, several of the state's elected officials have made it known they plan to be on hand to officiate ceremonies the minute they became legal.
Cory Booker, the charismatic Democratic mayor of Newark, elected last week in a special ballot to take over the state's empty Senate seat, was one of them.
"For 7yrs I have not officiated NJ weddings because many citizens were denied that equal right. Next week I will officiate. #Equality," he posted on his twitter account Friday.
"Thanks to today's ruling on Marriage Equality: On Monday at 12:01 AM I'll be marrying both straight & gay couples in City Hall #JerseyStrong," he said.
On September 28, Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson had ruled New Jersey's same-sex marriage ban went against a historic Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.
She ordered same-sex marriages to be allowed as of October 21, writing that "same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution."
It was the first time a judge used the Supreme Court decision to allow gay marriage in a state where they had been forbidden.
In June, the top court had struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman and prevented same-sex couples from enjoying the same rights as heterosexual couples.
Gay couples in New Jersey had been able to enter into civil unions.
But, where before June's Supreme Court ruling "same-sex couples in New Jersey would have been denied federal benefits regardless of what their relationship was called, these couples are now denied benefits solely as a result of the label placed upon them by the state," she said.
Including New Jersey, fourteen US states and the capital Washington allow same-sex marriage in the United States.