The New Jersey Supreme Court said Friday that same-sex marriages can begin taking place Monday, brushing aside a request from the administration of Gov. Chris Christie (R) for a delay.
The justices ruled that “the public interest does not favor a stay” and that the state has “not shown a reasonable probability it will succeed on the merits” of the case.
Christie’s administration appealed a lower-court ruling last month that legalized same-sex marriage in the state. But the governor’s press secretary, Michael Drewniak, said in a statement Friday that the governor will comply with the ruling.
“The Supreme Court has made its determination,” Drewniak said. “While the governor firmly believes that this determination should be made by all the people of the State of New Jersey, he has instructed the Department of Health to cooperate with all municipalities in effectuating the order of the Superior Court under the applicable law.”
Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has said he favors civil unions but remains opposed to same-sex marriage. He has said he would prefer that the issue be put on the ballot rather than decided by the courts.
Gay rights activists rejoiced at Friday’s ruling.
“On Monday, New Jersey will begin to tear down its Berlin Wall separating straight people who have had total freedom, and LGBT people who have not,” said Steven Goldstein, founder of Garden State Equality. “Governor Christie, not even you have the power to resurrect that wall. . . . It’s time to stop the charade of opposing the inevitable.”
Opponents, meanwhile, said the decision showed how judicial activism could distort the political process.
“The definition of marriage is something that should be decided by the people of New Jersey themselves, not by any judge or court,” Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said in a statement.
The court scheduled oral arguments to be heard on the case in early January.
Udi Ofer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of New Jersey, said the best solution would be for the state legislature to legalize same-sex marriage by the end of the year. Advocates of same-sex marriage need to pick up three votes in the state Senate and 12 in the General Assembly to override Christie’s veto by January; in recent weeks, six Assembly members, four Republicans and two Democrats, have announced that they now support same-sex marriage.
“This brings us another step closer in the legal battle to win marriage equality, but the fight is far from over,” Ofer said.