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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New Jersey via the state courts

2013-OCT:
NJ Supreme Court denies request for stay (Cont'd).
SSM here to stay in NJ. Big marriage surge.

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Earlier information about the case

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In this web site:
"SSM" refers to same-sex marriage;
LGBT refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals

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2013-OCT-18: New Jersey Supreme Court issued a definitive ruling (Cont'd):

Reuters news agency wrote on Friday, OCT-18:

"Same-sex couples in New Jersey will be able to wed starting on Monday [OCT-21], after the state's highest court unanimously denied Governor Chris Christie's request to put gay marriage on hold while the state's appeal is heard.

The governor had asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to freeze a state [superior court] judge's ruling allowing gay marriage until the top court hears the case in January and issues a final decision.

But in a signal that the court may be prepared to accept gay marriage permanently, all seven judges on the court ruled that the state had "not shown a reasonable probability it will succeed on the merits." 1

New Jersey on Monday [OCT-21] will become the 14th state to permit gay marriage, along with the District of Columbia."

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner of the New Jersey Supreme Court wrote the court's ruling. He said:

"The state's statutory scheme effectively denies committed same-sex partners in New Jersey the ability to receive federal benefits now afforded to married partners. ... Like Judge Jacobson, we can find no public interest in depriving a group of New Jersey residents of their constitutional right to equal protection while the appeals process unfolds." 1

"B.Y.T." a reader of the Reuters article posted the following comment:

"Some day in the future my children will look back at this issue the same way my generation now looks back at a woman’s right to vote. They will wonder how on earth anyone in their right mind could have been against it. Progress is always painfully slow, but common sense does prevail. 1

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Same-sex marriage rush begins:

Loving, committed same-sex couples in New Jersey were able to obtain their marriage licenses on Monday, OCT-21. A few had already obtained licenses on the previous Friday. This makes New Jersey the 15th jurisdiction in the United States (including 14 states and the District of Columbia) to legalize SSM. Hawaii was the next state to attain marriage equality, followed by Illinois. Meanwhile, over a thousands couples in New Mexico have been married, but the validity of their marriages is unclear.

Some New Jersey same-sex couples scrambled to find judges who are willing to waive the three-day waiting period so that they can get married on OCT-21. Many dozens were married on the Boardwalk or in various city halls throughout the state. Some of the couples have been together for many decades. Couples who decided to get married in the future started arranging venus, wedding photographers, individuals to solemnize their marriages, etc.

The first same-sex marriage in Newark, NJ was officiated by Mayor Cory Booker on 2013-OCT-21 at about 12:01. His office released a statement saying"

"For more than seven years, Mayor Booker has refused all requests to officiate New Jersey marriages because gay couples have been denied that equal right. Mayor Booker is excited to marry both straight and gay couples in City Hall on Monday morning beginning at 12:01 a.m." 6

The spouses were Joseph Panessidi and Orville Bell who had been together for 15 years. After Booker asked if anyone present had any objection to these two people marrying, a male protestor screamed: "This is unlawful in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ." He was quickly ushered away by the police. Booker then said: "Not hearing any substantive and worthy objections..." Thunderous applause resulted.2

The protestor, Mark de Rouville, 24, was later interviewed by the Guardian. Paraphrasing Leviticus 18:22 in the Bible, he said:

"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'."

This passage appears to be ambiguous in the original Hebrew. It has been interpreted in at least four ways; as condemning:

  • All same-gender sexual behavior, either by women or men,

  • All sexual behavior by two men,

  • Men having sex on a woman's bed, or

  • Men having sex with other men who were pagan temple prostitutes.

Apparently de Rouville used the second interpretation.

To further complicate the interpretation, the key word in the original Hebrew, To'ebah has been translated as an abomination or as ritual impurity. One became ritually impure in Old Testament times for being present at an interfaith meal, for a woman to wear pants resembling a man's, for a Hebrew eating shrimp, for a woman remarrying her ex-husband, and for many other reasons.

The ceremony by Mayor Booker was followed by eight other marriages: six involving same-sex couples; two involving opposite-sex couples. About 200 supportive people gathered in the city hall's rotunda to observe history in the making and to support their friends and relatives who were being married.

The following video is a short commercial followed by the 4 minute, 11 second marriage ceremony:

3

Beth Asaro, 53, a city councilwoman, and Joanne Schailey were the first New Jersey couple to enter into a civil union when the latter first became available in 2007. The ceremony was conducted by Mayor David DelVecchio, of Lambertville, NJ. On OCT-18, DelVecchio phoned Asaro offering to marry the couple. He said:

"Let's make this Chapter 2 and really put a bow on it." 7

The couple was married on OCT-21, in what the couple believes to be the state's first same-sex marriage ceremony. Asaro told reporters:

"I’m equal now. I’m not an exception on all the forms."

Mayor DelVecchio said:

"“They’re achieving something, not of my doing but of their own doing, that previously couldn’t happen and in that respect they’re certainly pioneers. Four or five years from now, people will look back and say, 'What was the fuss about'?" 4

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2013-OCT-21: Governor Chris Christie orders cancellation of appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court. SSM to proceed:

As the couples were being married on Monday morning, OCT-21, many were concerned that the New Jersey Supreme Court might possibly overturn the decision of the Superior Court when it ruled on the Christie administration's appeal, perhaps in 2014-FEB. The court could conceivably even forcibly divorce all of the married same-sex couples who had been married up to that time.

This concern was eliminated less that ten hours after the first marriage ceremony. Governor Chris Christie (R) made an unexpected decision by ordering the Attorney General to withdraw the appeal to the state Supreme Court. The administration issued a formal letter of withdrawal to the court later that same day.

Conservative religious and political web sites severely criticized Governor Christie's capitulation. Many questioned his

The statement stated that 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'. ... 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.

The statement appears to refuse to recognize one of the main functions of the court system: to compare state laws with the state constitution and declare the former unconsititutional if a conflict exists.

The statement continued:

... The governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law." 4

Councilwoman Asaro was pleased with Governor Christie's decision. She said:

"It was the momentum and, for whatever reason he did it, he just did the right thing. It was the complete icing on the cake."

In 2009, the Williams Institute, at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) has estimated that legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey will add about $200 million yearly to the New Jersey economy, mainly through wedding costs and tourism. This is expected to add more than 1,400 jobs and generate $15.1 million annually in taxes. 4

A spokesperson for the group Freedom to Marry said that as of OCT-21, one-third of the American population lives in a location where same-sex marriages are available. 5

Then began the race among the courts and legislatures of Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, etc. to be the next political jurisdictions to attain marriage equality. During 2013-NOV, Hawaii became the 15th state and Illinois became the 16th state. Over a thousand same-sex couples have married in New Mexico, but the validity of their marriages is unknown.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Joseph Ax, "New Jersey top court rules gay marriages can begin on Monday," Reuters, 2013-OCT-18, at: http://www.reuters.com/
  2. "Christie withdraws same-sex marriage challenge, as NJ recognizes unions," Fox News, 2013-OCT-21, at: http://www.foxnews.com/
  3. "Mayor Cory Brooker officiates first same-sex wedding in Newark," at: http://video-embed.nj.com/
  4. Elise Young & Terrence Dopp, "Christie Withdraws Gay Marriage Appeal as Couples Wed," Bloomberg, 2013-OCT-21, at: http://www.bloomberg.com/
  5. "New Jersey set for rush of same-sex marriages on Monday," Associated Press, 2013-OCT-19. at: http://www.theguardian.com
  6. "NJ same-sex couples rush to altar, but no bliss yet for some," NBC News, 2013-OCT-21, at: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/
  7. Simon Moya-Smith, "NJ same-sex couples rush to altar, but no bliss yet for some," NBC News, 2013-OCT-21, at: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/
  8. , "First gay marriages in New Jersey take place," The Guardian, 2013-OCT-21, at: http://www.theguardian.com/

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM Menu > New Jersey > here

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2013-OCT-18
Latest update: 2013-DEC-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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