NJ Appealing Gay Marriage Ruling to Higher Court
Gov. Chris Christie's administration on Monday asked New Jersey's top state court to take an appeal of a judge's ruling that the state must allow gay marriage.
Citing "far-reaching implications," Acting Attorney General John Hoffman made the request in a letter to the state Supreme Court, which usually does not weigh in on cases until after an appeals court has made a ruling on them.
Hoffman said he is also asking the judge who issued the decision Friday to grant a stay, delaying the implementation date from Oct. 21 until the matter can be settled.
An appeal from Christie's administration is no surprise. Within hours of the ruling, Christie's spokesman issued a statement saying he did not intend to let the trial court order stand in an issue in an issue that has been fought repeatedly both in New Jersey's courts and Legislature.
Advocates for gay marriage did not want Christie, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, to continue his fight against allowing same-sex couples to tie the knot in New Jersey. But they do want the issue fast-tracked to the state's top court if he does continue to fight it.
Democratic legislative leaders said as much at a news conference on Friday.
"We know it's going there so there should be no delay," Senate President Steve Sweeney said. "By Oct. 21st, people should know, yes or no. "
Last week's ruling by Judge Mary Jacobson sided firmly with six same-sex couples and the gay rights group Garden State Equality. They argued that by denying same-sex marriage rights, the state is blocking its lesbian and gay couples benefits that the federal government is now allowing in light of a June ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Christie's administration contends that it's the federal government, not the state, that should be held responsible for denying the benefits.
The issue is still being contended in the Legislature, too.
Lawmakers passed a law last year to allow gay marriage, but Christie vetoed it. At Monday's news conference, Democrats light-heartedly discussed wedding plans with gay couples in the room as Sweeney announced plans to post gay marriage for an override vote as soon after the Nov. 5 election. Sweeney said he could count on 27 of 40 senators to vote yes. In the Assembly, 54 of 80 votes would be needed.
Democrats control both houses of the Legislature but not by veto-proof majorities. They have never overridden one of Christie's vetoes and have until mid-January to hold the vote.
Christie has said repeatedly that he favors civil unions, which offer gay and lesbian couples benefits of marriage but not the title.
Christie also asked that gay marriage be decided by public vote, but most gay-rights advocates rejected that position, arguing that marriage equality is a civil right that doesn't belong on the ballot.
Thirteen states allow same-sex marriage. New Jersey's civil union law has been in effect since 2006.