(Photo: Reuters/Mike Segar)
Same-sex marriages will go ahead in New Jersey starting on Monday after the state's Supreme Court ruled against an appeal to block the practice while an appeal is being considered, arguing that there is no reasonable chance the appeal will be successful.
"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 harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative," wrote Chief Justice Stuart Rabner in the decision.
All seven judges ruled on Friday that Governor Chris Christie's appeal to temporarily block gay marriage has "not shown a reasonable probability it will succeed on the merits," Reuters reported, which means that on Monday the Garden State will become the 14th state in the U.S. to allow the practice.
Gay couples in America received a big boost in June when the Supreme Court decided to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, allowing them to receive the same tax, health and retirement benefits that are available to married heterosexual couples.
The decision was criticized by a number of conservative groups, with Austin R. Nimocks, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom saying: "Marriage – the union of husband and wife – is timeless, universal, and special, particularly because children need a mother and a father."
In September New Jersey became the first state to lift its ban on gay marriage as a direct result of the DOMA ruling, however.
"Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey constitution," wrote Judge Mary Jacobson of Trenton's Mercer County Superior Court in the order, a decision which Gov. Christie immediately announced will be appealed.
Gay-rights supporters have shared their elation with Friday's ruling:
"Take out the champagne glasses – wedding bells will soon be ringing in New Jersey," remarked Hayley Gorenberg, one of the lawyers representing the petitioning gay couples.
"Imagine the happiness you'd feel if you won the Super Bowl, the Nobel Prize and an Academy Award all in a single moment, and multiply it by a million. That's how we LGBT New Jerseyans feel right now," added Steven Goldstein, the former head of Garden State Equality, which filed the original lawsuit with other parties.
Christie, a Roman Catholic, has said that if any of his children came out as gay, he would "grab them and hug them and tell them I love them," but at the same time tell them he believes that marriage is between one man and one woman.
"My children understand that there are going to be differences of opinion in our house and in houses all across this state and across this country," Christie added, according to Politico.
The N.J. governor has said that while he would respect a voter decision to legalize same-sex marriage, he does not agree with the courts or the legislature deciding the matter.