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Topics In the News
Midnight Marriages in New Jersey; Christie Withdraws Appeal
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 10/21/13
Last updated on: 10/21/13
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Newark Mayor and Senator-elect Cory Booker (right) performs his first wedding.

At 12:01 a.m. on October 21, 2013, marriage equality dawned in New Jersey. Throughout the Garden State, gay and lesbian couples exchanged vows shortly after midnight as New Jersey became the 15th American state to permit same-sex marriage. In Newark, Mayor Cory Booker officiated at his first marriages and speedily dealt with a heckler. At 9:00 a.m., the Christie administration announced that it was withdrawing its appeal of the court decision that led to the midnight marriages, thus removing any doubt as to whether marriage equality would triumph in the state.

As Dan Goldberg reports in the Star-Ledger, "From city hall in Newark to the boardwalk in Asbury Park, pairs of brides and grooms tied the knot in joyous ceremonies that celebrated love while mindful of their newly granted legal status."

"It's a historic day," said Amy Quinn, an attorney and councilwoman in Asbury Park who married her partner, Heather Jensen, on the boardwalk just after midnight. "To be able to get married in my home state, in a town that I adore, to be able to get married by friends, with friends, around friends, it's such an amazing experience."

Quinn and Jensen and two other Asbury Park couples were married by a retired Roman Catholic priest, Reverend Tom Pivinski.

Joanne Schailey and Beth Asaro tied the knot at Lambertville's Justice Center in front of a crowd of around 150.

David Gibson and Rich Kiamco, who have been together for 10 years, were among the first Jersey City couples to be married. Their City Hall ceremony was officiated by Mayor Steve Fulop.

Martha Shapiro and Louise Walpin, two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that resulted in the September 27 ruling by Judge Mary Jacobson that same-sex couples must be permitted to wed, were married at the Elizabeth home of state Senator Raymond Lesniak, a sponsor of the gay marriage legislation. The ceremony was officiated by Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley.

Gabriela Celeiro and Elizabeth Salerno were among several couples who received a waiver from Essex County Judge Patricia Costello that allowed them to skip the mandatory 72-hour waiting period between obtaining a marriage license and marrying. Others had applied for their licenses on October 18.

In Newark, Mayor Booker, who was just elected to the U.S. Senate, officiated at his first marriage ceremonies. He had previously refused to perform any marriages until he could marry gay as well as straight couples.

As Booker was marrying the first of nine couples, someone attempted to disrupt the ceremony.

As he was marrying Orville Bell and Joseph Panessidi, the mayor asked if anyone had reason to object to the marriage and a protester screamed: "This is unlawful in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ."

Booker called for the person to be removed. As the police dragged him out, the Mayor continued, ". . . not hearing any substantive and worthy objections," and was interrupted by thunderous applause.

The midnight marriages were made possible by the refusal of the New Jersey Supreme Court to issue a stay of Judge Jacobson's ruling, as requested by Governor Chris Christie. The court, which did not reach a conclusion on the appeal itself and scheduled arguments on the case in January, strongly indicated that the state's appeal would not be successful.

At 9:00 a.m. on October 21, the Christie administration threw in the towel. It announced that it was withdrawing its appeal. Hence, marriage equality is here to stay in New Jersey.

As Bloomberg News reports, Christie instructed the Attorney General to submit a formal letter to the high court announcing its intent to cease the fight.

"Chief Justice Stuart Rabner left no ambiguity about the unanimous court's view on the ultimate decision in this matter when he wrote, 'same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today,'" the administration stated.

The announcement added: "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, 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."

In the video below, Senator-elect Booker performs his first marriage.

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