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In the Garden State, Wedding Bells Chime for Same-Sex Couples

Jacobson, in her ruling, ordered that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. She set October 21 as the date on which marriages could begin.

The Christie administration appealed and requested a stay. Jacobson denied the stay request and the Supreme Court took on the case, bypassing the appellate court. The Supreme Court will not hear the full appeal until January.

The court still could side with the Christie administration and overrule Judge Jacobson, putting a halt to same-sex marriage in the state, though that seems unlikely given the unusually critical language and the lack of dissent, observers say.

Brian Brown, president of the conservative National Organization for Marriage, criticized the court, calling Jacobson an “activist judge” and saying in a statement that the “definition of marriage is something that should be decided by the people of New Jersey themselves, not by any judge or court.”

“New Jerseyans should have the right to vote on this issue just as voters in nearly three dozen other states have done,” he said. “In addition, the decision to allow same-sex marriage to proceed even while the law is being tested in court is unfair both to the voters of the state and to same-sex couples themselves.”

He said the court could side with Christie, which would call into question any marriages performed in the interim, and “opens the door to a possible federal court ruling similar to what occurred in California in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal which held that once a state grants same-sex marriage rights it can never take them away.”

Fulop agrees, and says that is why Friday’s ruling is a victory.

“I don’t think the court is going anywhere in January,” Fulop said. “The request for additional hearings is just politics and the reality is marriage equality is the law of the land in New Jersey and it here to stay.”

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), one of two openly gay members of the state Legislature and the sponsor of the original same-sex marriage bill, agreed that it was unlikely that the court would strip same-sex marriage rights come January.

“The Supreme Court has granted the ability of people to get married in the interim, and the Supreme Court could change its mind,” Gusciora said. “But it is unlikely.”

He said the 7-0 vote adds to the predictive nature of the decision and that, allowing marriages to start taking place, Friday’s decision could alter the “facts on the ground” by creating a class of married couples that do not yet exist and that the court would have to consider.

“I doubt the court could take [their marriage rights] away, so it would add to the disparity argument in January,” he said.

Ultimately, Gusciora said, the administration’s efforts to prevent same-sex couples from marrying are a “Quixotic quest” and it would be best for the governor to get on the right side of history.

"The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA in July was a ‘game-changer,” Gusciora said, because it said that there are federal benefits tied to whether something is called a marriage or a civil union.

“The Jacobson decision was nothing but a recognition that there are benefits that can be derived from marriage and not through civil unions,” he said.

Hayley Gorenberg of Lambda Legal, one of the attorneys for same-sex couples in the case, praised Friday’s ruling but would not say whether she thought it predictive of what is to come.

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