US: New Jersey Governor to appeal against judge’s ruling in favour of equal marriage

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The Governor of the US state of New Jersey has said he plans to appeal against a judge’s ruling on Friday that the state-wide ban on equal marriage is unconstitutional.

Judge Mary Jacobson on Friday ruled that because the US federal government now recognises same-sex marriage, the state government in New Jersey would violate its constitution by not doing so.

“Every day that the state does not allow same-sex couples to marry, plaintiffs are being harmed,” Jacobson wrote, saying as of 21 October, same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in the state.

It is not immediately clear when same-sex marriages could begin, or whether the state government will appeal to a higher level court.

Governor Chris Christie’s administration quickly moved to announced it would appeal to a higher court against the decision.

“Governor Christie has always maintained that he would abide by the will of the voters on the issue of marriage equality and called for it to be on the ballot this Election Day,” said his spokesman Michael Drewniak on Friday.

“Since the Legislature refused to allow the people to decide expeditiously, we will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination.”

The Governor is opposed to equal marriage, and last year vetoed a bill which had passed.

In the ruling on Friday, Judge Jacobson accepted the position of lawyers from gay rights groups that the state is effectively blocking the federal benefits of New Jersey citizens by not allowing same-sex marriage.

Back in 2006, New Jersey’s top court ruled that gay couples should have the same legal rights as married opposite sex couples. Same-sex couples can currently enter into civil unions in the state.

The US Supreme Court in June struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and ruled that civil unions do not provide the same benefits as marriage.

Christie in June said the opposite, and that the strike-down of DOMA “was wrong”.

Back in February, Democrats in the New Jersey legislature said they would attempt to override Governor Chris Christie’s equal marriage veto from last year, and have now agreed to put the question of marriage equality to voters in November, if they cannot override it.

Alongside Pennsylvania, New Jersey was the only north east state where same-sex marriage is not legal.