(Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)
As several New Jersey cities began officiating same-sex marriages early Monday morning following a state Supreme Court ruling, one Christian stood up at a same-sex wedding ceremony in Newark to protest the union after Mayor Cory Booker asked if attendees had any objections.
Mayor Booker was one of the first government officials to marry several same-sex couples at the stroke of midnight early Monday morning at Newark's City Hall; in total, Booker married seven same-sex couples and two heterosexual couples. While beginning the wedding ceremony of same-sex couple Joseph Panessidi and Orville Bell, Booker asked those in attendance if anyone had any objections to the union.
One attendee at the City Hall gathering that attracted dozens then proceeded to stand up and yell: "This is unlawful in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ," according to NJ.com. The protester was then reportedly escorted out of City Hall and Booker said that because there were no "substantive and worthy objections," the ceremony could proceed.
The Newark mayor, who was recently elected to a Senate seat, kicked off the ceremonies at midnight in City Hall's rotunda building, telling the audience: "It is officially past midnight, marriage is now equal in New Jersey," and adding that officiating the marriages was "one of the most magical moments" of his life. Booker had previously declined to officiate any marriages until same-sex couples were included.
Along with Newark, several other New Jersey cities began officiating same-sex marriages Monday, including Jersey City, Lambertville, and Red Bank, among other places. These weddings came after a state Supreme Court ruling Friday that determined Gov. Chris Christie's request for a halt to same-sex marriages as the state went through with an appeals process would not be granted.
Then, on Monday, Christie announced that the state would be dropping its appeal against a previous ruling by Judge Mary Jacobson in early October that determined gay couples in the state should be allowed to marry so they may receive federal benefits granted to them through the June Defense of Marriage Act ruling by the federal Supreme Court.
Christie's office said in a statement that it had dropped the appeal after the state's seven Supreme Court justices unanimously voted to deny his request for a halt in the implementation of same-sex marriages on Oct. 21. The statement was clear to point out that Christie believes the topic of same-sex marriage should be put up for a vote among New Jersey citizens.
"Chief Justice 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'," Christie's office said in the statement.
"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," the statement continued. "The Governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his Administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."
The Family Research Council, an organization promoting traditional family values, expressed its disappointment at Gov. Christie's decision on Monday, with Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg saying in a statement: "Family Research Council is disappointed by Gov. Christie's decision to withdraw the state's appeal of a lower court order redefining marriage. The fact that the Supreme Court refused to stay the lower court's order is no reason not to litigate this important issue to a final conclusion on the merits."
"We are glad that Gov. Christie vetoed the legislature's attempt to redefine marriage, and that he was initially willing to defend the state's marriage law in court. However, conservatives are looking for leaders who will sustain their commitment to unchanging principles. Combined with his signing of a radical bill to outlaw even voluntary sexual orientation change efforts with minors, today's action has given conservatives serious pause about Gov. Christie's reliability," concluded Sprigg.
In February 2012, Christie vetoed a newly-passed bill that would have legalized gay marriage in the state, saying the issue should be put up for a vote by the people. In August, Christie signed a bill outlawing gay conversion therapy for minors in the state.
New Jersey is now the 14th state to legalize same-sex marriage.