Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday morning, US Senator-elect and Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker (D) will do something he’s never done before: officiate at weddings.
“Mayor Booker has refused all requests to officiate New Jersey marriages because gay couples have been denied that equal right,” Mayor Booker’s office announced Friday. “After today’s wonderful news, Mayor Booker is excited to marry both straight and gay couples in City Hall on Monday morning.”
The “wonderful news” Booker spoke of was the unanimous ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court that such marriages can proceed without delay. Gov. Chris Christie (R) had sought a delay until the case can be heard on appeal, but New Jersey’s high court rejected that.
"The state has advanced a number of arguments, but none of them overcome this reality: Same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today," the court said in an opinion by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. "The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative."
If the lower court ruling in favor of gay marriage is upheld as expected (given the strong statement by the state’s Supreme Court justices in its ruling this week) New Jersey would become the 14th state plus the District of Columbia now allowing same-sex couples to marry.
The issue has put Gov. Christie in a tough political spot.
New Jersey State Sen. Barbara Buono who is running against Christie for governor and whose daughter is openly lesbian, accused Christie of delaying the inevitable for political gain, CBS New York reports.
"We have to stop treating our gay brothers and sisters as second-class citizens," Sen. Buono said. "My daughter should not have to go into another state to marry the person she loves, and I personally am offended by his stance."
Next door in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, the legal fight over gay marriage continues.
A state judge ruled last month that marriage licenses will no longer be given out to same-sex couples in the state, putting into limbo the legal status of more than 100 couples who married recently despite a long-standing ban on same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania.
In recent weeks, at least eight county clerks in New Mexico have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples while state courts wrestle with the implications of the US Supreme Court ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which had restricted the rights of gay couples. Officials in Oregon have just announced that the state will recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania and New Jersey illustrate similar situations happening across the country in the months since the US Supreme Court struck down parts of DOMA. Here’s a sampling of efforts in key states compiled by the Associated Press:
HAWAII: A special session of the Legislature to consider legalizing same-sex marriage is scheduled to begin Oct. 28. State Attorney General David Louie issued a legal opinion this week saying lawmakers may legalize gay marriages without amending the state constitution.
ILLINOIS: A bill to legalize gay marriage, supported by Gov. Pat Quinn, is in limbo after the state House failed to vote on it before the legislative session ended in May. A six-day fall session starts Tuesday, but it's unclear whether the bill will come up.
MICHIGAN: A federal judge is considering a challenge to a 2004 constitutional amendment that recognizes marriage as being only between a man and a woman. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman says he won't rule until he hears expert testimony Feb. 25.
NEVADA: Lawmakers this year gave an initial round of approval to the proposed repeal of a 2002 change in the state constitution that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. It requires a second legislative vote in two years. If it is approved again, voters will decide in 2016 whether to recognize marriages regardless of gender.
NEW MEXICO: Gay marriage was pushed to the front burner in August when Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and at least seven other county clerks have followed suit. State law does not explicitly authorize or prohibit gay marriage, and the state's 33 counties and county clerks have asked the five-justice New Mexico Supreme Court to clarify their responsibilities. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
OHIO: A federal judge has ordered Ohio to recognize the marriages of two gay couples who sued to get their out-of-state marriages recognized on their spouses' Ohio death certificates. The ruling was issued despite the state's ban on gay marriage.
OREGON: State officials declared this week that Oregon will recognize same-sex marriages of couples who tied the knot in another state or country. Oregon voters changed the state constitution in 2004 to define marriage as being between a man and a woman, but an initiative to overturn that ban is a virtual lock on the 2014 ballot.