New York City (AFP) – New Jersey’s first-ever same-sex marriages were celebrated Monday with cheers and laughter as a flurry of excited, beaming couples married minutes after midnight.
Republican Governor Chris Christie, who had appealed against the judicial decision to allow the weddings, later that morning dropped his fight to get it overturned.
“Exhilarated, ecstatic and what was my other e? Excited,” Marsha Shapiro told TV network CBS, dressed to the nines alongside new spouse Louise Walpin in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
The couple have been together more than 20 years, raised four children and have one grandchild with another on the way.
The weddings began at one minute after midnight on the first day that a judge allowed the unions to take place.
Despite the governor’s personal opposition, several of the states other elected representatives were only too happy to officiate at the midnight unions.
Cory Booker, the charismatic Democratic mayor of Newark, elected last week in a special ballot to take over the state’s empty Senate seat, was one of them.
“The great state of New Jersey becomes far, far greater by recognizing the equality of all God’s children,” he told the congregation at one of the weddings.
Booker, who refused to officiate New Jersey weddings for seven years because of the ban on same-sex marriage, married half a dozen couples in the early hours.
There were only isolated protests.
When Booker asked if there were any objections at one wedding, a man at the back of the hall shouted “this is unlawful in the sight of God” before being ordered out.
The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman and prevented same-sex couples from enjoying the same rights as heterosexual couples.
On September 28, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage went against the historic Supreme Court ruling.
She ordered same-sex marriages allowed as of October 21, the first time a judge used the top court’s decision to allow gay marriage in a state where they had been forbidden.
Since the Supreme Court ruling, same-sex couples in New Jersey were “denied benefits solely as a result of the label placed upon them by the state,” she said.
Christie’s office said that while he disagrees with the decision his administration would enforce it.
“The court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law,” it said in a statement Monday.
“The governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court,” it added.
Gay rights activists said overnight the fight goes on.
“The struggle continues,” said Joseph Panessiei who married partner Orville Bell overnight.
“We are married and happy to be so, but that’s not legal in all states in the United States. And there are a lot of people who still, even in the states where it’s legal, don’t believe its correct or proper,” he said.