Governor Chris Christie drops New Jersey challenge to same-sex marriage

Republican's decision is culmination of a dizzying few weeks for gay wedding advocates in the state

Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey widely tipped to seek his party's presidential nomination in 2016, bowed to the will of the courts today and said he was withdrawing his objections to his state becoming the fourteenth in the United States to allow gay marriage.

His decision is the culmination of a dizzying few weeks for gay marriage advocates in New Jersey. In September a lower court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage but Mr Christie filed an appeal to the State Supreme Court. But on Friday the Supreme Court said that marriages should be able to begin pending the outcome of that appeal. Because of a 72-hour waiting period rule that led to a flurry of marriages held one minute after midnight Monday.

Friday's decision by the state's highest court was unanimous and it apparently became obvious to Mr Christie that his appeal, that was to be heard in January, was bound to fail. He has always made clear his personal opposition to gay marriage and said if he would only approve it if it found majority support in a state-wide referendum.

The lower court had issued its ruling to the effect that not allowing same sex marriage contravened the state Constitution. It came in the wake of the US Supreme Court earlier in the summer striking down the Defense of Marriage Act that had said that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. The ruling ensured for the first time that same sex couples became eligible for the same federal benefits afforded to straight married couples.

"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," his office said in a statement. "The governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."

Mr Christie is expected to win easy re-election in November for a second four-year term as governor and had he offered his own personal support for gay marriage it almost certainly wouldn't have harmed his prospects. The topic is far more toxic on the national stage, however, where any such liberal stance would be bound to draw the ire of conservatives and the tea party right. To that extent, the actions of the courts gave him convenient cover.

Cory Booker, the Mayor of Newark who was elected to the US Senate last week, officiated at the first just-past-midnight gay marriage in City Hall. "This is very beautiful," he said after declaring Gabriela Celeiro and Liz Salerno "lawful spouses". The ceremony was briefly disrupted by a protester who cried out: "This is unlawful in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ".

In Lambertville, a small town favoured by tourists on the Delaware River, Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey, who have been together for 27 years, also took middle-of-the-night marriage vows in the same municipal courtroom where seven years ago they were joined in a civil union.

"We remained optimistic and hopeful that we would be able to gather together to do the right thing, the just thing, and see our two friends get married," Mayor Dave DelVecchio, who led both the 2007 ceremony and Monday's, said. The couple's 13-year-old daughter served as the flower girl.

It is nine years since Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay marriage. In the years since, the debate has moved swiftly, notably with the repeal of Don't ask, Don't tell in the military and President Barack Obama's declaration last spring that he had come round to supporting it.  But while same-sex marriage is now recognised by the federal government, fourteen states and the District of Columbia, it remains prohibited in nearly every other state either by law or by virtue of their constitutions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent