Same-sex marriages start in New Jersey, 14th state to recognize such unions
NATIONAL NEWS (CNN) — Marsha Shapiro and Louise Walpin married each other for the third time early Monday. But this time, it was especially memorable: They were among the first to tie the knot after same-sex marriage became legal in New Jersey.
A rabbi first "married" the couple in 1992 in a Jewish ceremony. They married a second time in New York in August 2012 after same-sex marriage became legal there.
The third time was just after midnight Thursday in the Garden State. The couple helped pave the way there through a 2011 lawsuit that brought about the change. New Jersey now becomes the 14th state to recognize gay marriages.
Shapiro and Walpin were married in the home of state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who championed same-sex marriage in the legislature.
But throughout the state, other gay couples exchanged vows in early morning ceremonies.
At the Newark City Hall, Mayor Cory Booker married seven couples, two of them straight. He had refused to conduct any marriage ceremonies until same-sex marriages were legal in the state.
"It is officially past midnight," Booker said. "Marriage is equal in New Jersey."
High court clears the way
On Friday, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied the state's request to temporarily prevent such marriages.
Troy Stevenson, executive director of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said last week that the high court's decision means "the door is open for love, commitment and equality under the law."
"This is a huge victory for New Jersey's same-sex couples and their families," added Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director of gay rights group Lambda Legal and the organization's lead attorney on the case. "Take out the champagne glasses -- wedding bells will soon be ringing in New Jersey!"
That enthusiasm was not shared by everyone.
"It is extremely disappointing that the New Jersey Supreme Court has allowed the ruling of an activist judge to stand pending its appeal through the court system," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, last week. "All in all, today's ruling is another sad chapter in watching our courts usurp the rights of voters to determine issues like this for themselves."
Gov. Chris Christie's administration appealed -- and asked the court to delay -- a lower court's September 27 order that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry beginning October 21, rather than give them the label "civil union."
The appeal will be heard in January. But the state Supreme Court on Friday declined to delay the September order in the meantime, writing that "the state has not shown a reasonable probability that it will succeed on the merits" of the appeal.
"When a party presents a clear case of ongoing unequal treatment, and asks the court to vindicate constitutionally protected rights, a court may not sidestep its obligation to rule for an indefinite amount of time," the 20-page decision read. "Under those circumstances, courts do not have the option to defer."
Where sex-same marriage is legal
New Jersey has recognized civil unions between same-sex couples since 2007, after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples all the rights and benefits of marriage. As far as state rights and benefits went, civil unions and marriages differed only in label.
Three states offer civil unions, but not marriage, to same-sex couples. They are Colorado, Hawaii and Illinois.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 14 U.S states -- California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington -- as well as the District of Columbia.
Same-sex marriage is banned in every state not mentioned above, except for New Mexico, which has no laws banning or allowing it.
-- CNN's Jason Hanna and Kevin Wang contributed to this report.