Nicquel Terry and Daniel Radel, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press
ASBURY PARK, N.J. - Hours after same-sex couples lined up Monday across the state to marry, Gov. Chris Christie dropped his administration's efforts to end gay marriage.
Christie and his Acting Attorney General John Hoffman had filed an appeal to the State Supreme Court after a lower court ruled that same-sex couples could begin to get married in New Jersey at midnight Monday, but Christie withdrew the appeal Monday morning.
A statement from Christie's office noted that when the State Supreme Court denied the governor's efforts to delay same-sex marriages, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote in the denial that "same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today."
"Although the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law," the governor's statement said. "The governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."
Meanwhile, across the state same-sex couples began marrying shortly after midnight Monday.
Three couples married on the steps of the Paramount Theater before a crowd of about 50 people. It was an historic and emotional momentthat brought tears to some guests as they watched the couples wed under a full moon in the cold wind, one of many throughout the state scheduled at 12:01 a.m. after the state Supreme Court refused to delay a lower court order for the state to begin recognizing same-sex marriages.
"It's utterly pure and complete relief to finally be here because it's been a crazy long road," said Karen Nicholson-McFadden after marrying Marcye Nicholson-McFadden, her partner of 24 years.
The Aberdeen, N.J., women were plaintiffs in the lawsuit that brought same-sex marriage to the state.
Also tying the knot Monday in Asbury Park were Councilwoman Amy Quinn and her partner Heather Jensen, who had a joint ceremony with couple Steven Brunner and Daniel Baum.
The Rev. Thomas Pivinski officiated each wedding and said the state's recognition of gay marriage was long overdue.
"I think it's wonderful," Pivinski said. "I am just very grateful that the state has recognized the equality of all people."
In Lambertville, N.J., Mayor David DelVecchio pronounced Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey as spouses in the minute after midnight.
"We're floating on air," Asaro, a city councilwoman, said after the ceremony. "We're not an exception anymore." The women, partners for 27 years, were having their second "first." In 2007, they became the first couple in New Jersey to be joined in a civil union in another midnight ceremony also performed by DelVecchio.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Trenton, the state's first openly gay legislator and the first sponsor of same-sex marriage legislation, presented the couple with a bottle of Egalite, a New York sparkling wine created in support of lesbian and gay equality. Back in January 2012, Christie had called Gusciora "numb nuts" over a comment from the assemblyman that likened the struggle for gay rights to the civil-rights movement.
Lambertville's City Clerk Cindy Ege said she has received 13 same-sex marriage license applications and, before the ceremony announced she would be present until 1 a.m. to accept more applications.
In Red Bank, N.J., two same-sex couples also took their wedding vows just minutes after midnight.
Ed Zipprich and John Paul Nicolaides, partners of 17 years, were the first couple to be married there. The couple took their vows at 12:05 a.m. before 40 friends and family members.
"We wanted to be first," said Nicolaides, moments after saying "I do."
Zipprich and Nicolaides filed their application for a marriage license in the borough at 12:01 a.m. Friday so that their midnight marriage would be possible.
Borough Clerk and Registrar Pam Borgi said she received the new template for same sex marriages licenses at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Red Bank Mayor Pasquale "Pat" Menna threw open the doors of Borough Hall for the ceremony to take place.
"It's an historic moment," Menna said. "People want to be a part of history. This is so great that after midnight so many people showed up."
Zipprich, 53, and Nicolaides, 49, were married by Colleen Mahr, the mayor of Fanwood, N.J., and also a close friend of the couple.
"I thought a lot about this moment. These marriages were not possible the day before, and it was special to bear witness to it," Mahr said.
Contributing: Michael Deak, (Bridgewater, N.J.) Courier News; Gannett Trenton (N.J.) Bureau.