New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped his legal efforts to block same-sex marriage in his state hours after the first such couples were married. A lower-court judge had ruled last month that New Jersey must recognize gay marriages, making it the 14th state in the country to do so.
Although Christie disagreed with the court’s decision, he said he had a constitutional duty to enforce the law. In contrast, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark who was elected to the U.S. Senate last week, officiated at seven same-sex marriages in a midnight ceremony after the state Supreme Court’s rejection Friday of Christie’s request to maintain the ban pending appeal.
The first to be married were Joseph Panessidi and Orville Bell, both 65, who met in a New York bar 15 years ago. “Do you wish to join in marriage?” Booker asked Panessidi and Bell, who answered in the affirmative. “And I wish to join you,” Booker said. “Not in the marriage,” he added quickly, as laughter flowed up toward the ornate ceiling of City Hall.
Midnight ceremonies were held across the state, despite the lack of clear legal guidance. New Jersey authorities had not issued guidance to city clerks after Friday’s court ruling, but some acted on their own initiative. Couples wishing to get married on Monday had to find a judge willing to waive the state’s 72-hour waiting period which usually applies between getting a licence and holding a ceremony, and a clerk prepared to officiate.
A momentary shadow was cast over the Newark ceremony when Booker asked the crowd to speak if they knew of any “substantive reason” why Panessidi and Bell should not be wed. “This is unlawful in the eyes of God,” shouted an earnest-looking man wearing a beige jacket. He continued to shout as he was escorted out by police. “The Bible says that ‘he that lieth with a man as he does with a woman, it’s an abomination in the eyes of the Lord’,” the man, 24-year-old Mark de Rouville, told the Guardian afterwards.
Booker ruled that he had not heard “any substantive reason” in the protester’s message. He continued rattling through the ceremonies until all were wed.