A New Jersey judge has ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry and Governor Chris Christie says he will appeal.

Gay marriage supporter in Trenton
Gay marriage supporter in Trenton (Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)

In a 53 page summary judgment issued Friday, Judge Mary Jacobson, the top judge in Mercer County,  says in an emergency ruling that because the federal government recognizes gay marriages, not doing so in New Jersey would violate the state constitution.

Jacobson also concluded that New Jersey's stand "is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts" including the ability to receive certain federal benefits.

In a statement, Christie's press secretary Mike Drewniak said, “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.  Since the legislature refused to allow the people to decide expeditiously, we will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination.”

Christie was attending a ground breaking at the College of New Jersey in Ewing when news of the ruling broke but would not take questions about it.

The judge's order says marriages can begin on October 21. The Christie Administration, which has favored the issue being put to a ballot vote, is expected to appeal the decision. The appeal would be to an intermediate court and then the state Supreme Court.

"A Historic Day"

Garden State Equality, which brought the case to court on behalf of six couples, said that that while "there is still work to be done...this is a historic day" on their Facebook page posted. The organization will hold a rally at 7 p.m. tonight at their Montclair office.

Marcye Nicholson-McFadden, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said she and her partner of 24 years, Karen Nicholson-McFadden, are trying to absorb the news. "I want to shout from the rooftops, but I just have to keep myself in check," Marcye Nicholson-McFadden, of Aberdeen, said

Democrat gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono called the judge's ruling a "tremendous victory for everyone who believes in equality." She said that Governor Chris Christie is "on the wrong side of history" and called for him to "stop blocking equal rights for all New Jerseyans."

Openly-gay Assemblyman Reed Guciora (D) tells Townsquare Media he is happy with the decision and hopes the governor does not appeal. Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) in a tweet said the ruling is "an important step forward for equality in New Jersey."

Definition Of Same Sex Marriage In New Jersey Unclear

John Tomicki, president of the New Jersey Coalition To Preserve and Protect Marriage says this decision would never have been possible if it wasn't for a 2006 state Supreme Court decision. “The state of New Jersey at that time did not clearly delineate nor raise the issue of why natural marriage is important to a cultural and society and his different from a civil union.” In 2006 the state Supreme Court ruled that gay couples can receive all the rights and benefits of marriage. It would be up to the state legislature whether to call it "marriage" or something else. Senate President Steve Sweeney, at the start of this legislative session, declared gay marriage to be his top priority and regretted not voting in favor of it at the end of the previous session.


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