By Albert Lin
Midnight on Sunday night is hardly the typical time for a wedding, but for scores of couples across New Jersey, the setting could not have been more perfect. After the State Supreme Court on Friday denied a request by Governor Chris Christie’s administration to delay the implementation of same-gender marriages pending a January appeal, happy couples rushed to tie the knot in the early hours of Monday, the date a State Superior Court judge previously ruled that New Jersey would have to allow same-gender couples to marry.
New Jersey becomes the 14th state to allow same-gender marriage, and the fourth this year as marriage equality gains momentum. On Monday morning, Christie’s office announced that his administration had dropped its appeal after the State Supreme Court all but said it would not reverse the lower court’s decision.
“Although the Governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people,” read an emailed statement, “the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law. The Governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his Administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court.”
Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote the unanimous opinion, saying, “Civil-union partners in New Jersey today do not receive the same benefits as married same-sex couples when it comes to family and medical leave, Medicare, tax and immigration matters, military and veterans’ affairs, and other areas. The state constitution’s guarantee of equal protection is therefore not being met.”
Rabner also wrote that Christie “has not shown a reasonable probability of success” in challenging the lower-court’s ruling.” Rutgers University School of Law—Camden Professor Perry Dane told the (Newark) Star-Ledger: “[The court has] definitely done more than tip its hand. It has, pretty effectively, telegraphed what it’s very likely to do, unless something quite unusual happens.”
Among the couples who married overnight were Marsha Shapiro and Louise Walpin, two of the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit and perhaps the first in the state to be married, according to the Associated Press. They started their ceremony at 11 p.m. so they would be on track to say “I do” as soon as Oct. 21 arrived. “We didn’t want to wait. This is the entrance to the promised land. We want to be there at 12:01,” Walpin told reporters. “This is something we want to share with the community. All those little kids and teenagers out there, we want them to know they can grow up and fall in love and get married. It’s about them, too.”
Two other plaintiffs, Karen and Marcye Nicholson-McFadden, also wed after initially being denied a marriage permit on Friday in their hometown of Aberdeen. The town’s mayor ended up opening its municipal building on Sunday so the town clerk could issue the permit. “It’s utterly pure and complete relief to finally be here because it’s been a crazy long road,” Karen Nicholson-McFadden told the Asbury Park Press.