US: New Jersey Supreme Court agrees to hear appeal against equal marriage by Governor

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The Supreme Court in the US state of New Jersey has agreed to take on the appeal against equal marriage by the Governor’s administration.

The court on Friday announced its decision to take on the case, ignoring the regular protocol of letting a lower appeals court rule on it first. Oral arguments are expected to take place in January.

New Jersey Judge Mary Jacobson last month 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. She said same-sex marriages should be allowed to take place from 21 October.

The administration of Governor Chris Christie  appealed the decision at the state Supreme Court, also asking Judge Jacobson to place a stay on equal marriage until the court rules.

She declined the request on Thursday, saying in her opinion that a delay “would simply allow the state to continue to violate the equal protection rights of New Jersey same-sex couples, which can hardly be considered a public interest.”

Equal marriage advocates expressed joy at the ruling, which they said moves New Jersey closer to marriage equality.

Governor Christie maintains that the decision should be made by referendum, rather than politicians, and his administration’s ruling said that the decision should not come down to one judge.

A poll, run by Rutgers-Eagleton in April, found that an overwhelming majority of New Jersey residents would want a referendum on the issue, and more than half have said they would support equal marriage.

Former cast-member of the popular Jersey Shore television series JWoww last week called the Governor “retarded” for continuing to fight against equal marriage in the state. She later apologised for her use of the word, but stood by her opinion of him.

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.