Created on Saturday, 19 October 2013 Written by GEOFF MULVIHILL, Associated Press
Couples who have dreamed for years, even decades, of being able to legally wed in New Jersey are getting their wish after the state Supreme Court on Friday refused to delay a lower-court order for the state to recognize same-sex marriages starting Monday.
Because of the unexpected decision, same-sex couples who want to be the first to get married in New Jersey are in a scramble to plan ceremonies.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker and David DelVecchio, mayor of the gay-friendly community of Lambertville, both plan to lead ceremonies for gay couples at 12:01 a.m. Monday. A handful of towns, including Hoboken and Collingswood, are opening offices Saturday to accept applications for marriage licenses from same-sex couples.
Amy Quinn and Heather Jensen applied for a marriage license at 8 a.m. Friday in Asbury Park, the town where they live and where an influx of gay couples during the last decade has been a major part of the area's revival. Their plan was to be married the second they were eligible to do so.
But by Friday afternoon, Quinn said she didn't know precisely when that would be, or where. She's spending the weekend doing wedding planning on the fly.
"There was another couple that got their license today ... they got a photographer," said Quinn, a member of the Asbury Park City Council. "I've got to step up, right?"
She said she hadn't done much planning largely because she suspected the state's top court would grant the request of Gov. Chris Christie's administration to delay gay marriages while it considered a broader case.
But the court ruled Friday afternoon that it did not think the state's arguments were likely to prevail in the end and that delaying the lower court's order would hurt couples who would not be eligible for federal benefits until they can be married legally in New Jersey.
For Quinn and Jensen, a couple for 10 years who were married in New York in June, there was another issue. Under state law, couples must normally wait 72 hours after applying for a marriage license before they can tie the knot.
A judge on Friday, before the high court's ruling, denied Jersey City's request to waive the requirement. But it's not clear how much of an obstacle that will be.
Troy Stevenson, the executive director of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said he was trying to line up judges who could waive the waiting period for individual couples late Sunday night so they could exchange vows after the stroke of midnight.
Further, state law says that couples married legally elsewhere can wed in New Jersey without a waiting period — a provision that appears to apply to Quinn and Jensen and many other New Jersey couples.
Not everyone in a long-term relationship was rushing to get married.
Jay Lassiter of Cherry Hill said he and his partner will talk about marriage now. "I'm actually now having to confront my relationship issues," he said. "This is going to force a lot of gay couples to have a lot of serious discussions."