STATE – Hours after the first ceremonies were performed, Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s administration has ended its legal efforts to stop same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman sent a letter to the state Supreme Court dropping New Jersey’s appeal of the ruling in Garden State Equality v. Dow after the court’s ruling on a stay motion on Friday left little doubt about what the result of the appeal would likely be.
“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,” said a statement released by Christie’s office, “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.”
“We have said all along that our State gains nothing by wasting funds to defend an unconstitutional ban on marriage equality,” said state Senate President Steve Sweeney, state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and state Senator Raymond J. Lesniak in a joint statement. “The State’s formal opposition in Garden State Equality v. Dow served nothing more than to deny New Jerseyans of federal marital rights. This is a victory for dozens of loving same-sex couples that wed this morning across this state and for thousands more that will marry in the years to come. New Jersey is now a state that grants equality to all committed families and we are a better state for it.”
Christie had hoped to defer the issue of marriage equality to New Jersey voters by placing a referendum on a future election ballot. He vetoed legislation last year that would have permitted same-sex couples to marry, and Democrats were still working to muster enough votes in the Legislature to override his decision.
Republican state Sen. Michael Doherty was critical of the governor’s decision to drop the appeal.
“For four years, Gov. Christie has repeatedly stated that he supports traditional marriage and that the voters of New Jersey should decide this important issue,” Doherty said. “By dropping the state’s appeal, Gov. Christie has acquiesced to the same judicial activism that he has long railed against. His action will ensure that the people of New Jersey, and its elected representatives in the legislature, will have no part in deciding this major, societal-changing issue. By refusing to challenge the court’s decision, he is also blocking the opportunity for third parties to present their case to the court via amicus briefs.”
New Jersey had allowed same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, but because they could not marry under state law, they and their children were eligible for a wide range of federal benefits available to same-sex married couples following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this summer overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
According to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today, 61 percent of New Jersey voters support legalizing same-sex marriage versus 27 percent who oppose it and 12 percent who are unsure.
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