NJ Gay Couples Head For City Hall

Richard Clayton III, left, kisses his partner, Ron Fleckenstein Jr., after filing an application for a marriage license in Asbury Park, N.J. Tuesday, March 9, 2004.
A day after the first gay wedding in New Jersey, several same-sex couples turned out at City Hall early Tuesday, hoping to obtain marriage licenses before the state attorney general sought an injunction barring officials from issuing any more.

The first couple to successfully file their application Tuesday were Donna Harrison, 42, and her seven-year partner, Kathy Ragauckas, 41, who both live in Asbury Park.

"We're Americans, we pay our taxes, we love each other, and there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to express that," Harrison said.

Shortly after the office opened at 9 a.m., at least seven couples began entering the office as they sought the necessary paperwork. No ceremonies were scheduled for Tuesday because there is a 72-hour waiting period after obtaining a license.

Some were turned away, however, because at least one partner did not live in Asbury Park. In New Jersey, state residents must apply for licenses in the city where one or the other lives; out-of-state residents can seek a license anywhere in the state.

The state's first marriage took place Monday. Hours later, State Attorney General Peter C. Harvey said that licenses issued to gay and lesbian couples by Asbury Park officials are not valid.

He said his office will seek an injunction later in the week to stop the issuing of more licenses. He planned to cite a New Jersey court ruling that says state law forbids gay marriage.

"It's our view that any town that issues a marriage license to same-sex couples is not in compliance with the law and is essentially issuing worthless paper, since we suspect it will not be enforced by any court in this state," Harvey said.

On Nov. 5, a judge ruled that New Jersey's marriage statutes do not permit same-sex marriages. Nothing in the state constitution guarantees same-sex unions as a right and the appropriate forum to change marriage laws is the Legislature, the judge ruled. The ruling is under appeal.

In other developments:

  • Seattle entered the gay marriage debate, with six same-sex couple suing for the right to wed and Mayor Greg Nickels issuing an executive order requiring the city to recognize same-sex marriages by municipal employees.

    The six couples sued after being rejected for marriage licenses by Washington's King County because of a state law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. King County Administrator Ron Sims invited the couples to sue him and the county, explaining that he supported their efforts but had no choice but to uphold the law. The lawsuit argues the law violates the equal protection clause of the state Constitution.

  • Supporters of same-sex weddings won a legal battle when a judge in Portland, Ore., ruled that the state's most populous county can continue issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. In denying a request for a preliminary injunction, the judge ruled that the plaintiffs' challenge, which argued that officials had violated state law by making a policy change without holding public meetings, was unlikely to prevail.

    Hundreds of gay couples were granted wedding licenses last week in Portland.

  • More than 3,600 same-sex marriages have been performed in San Francisco in the last three weeks. As in other places, the San Francisco marriages are being challenged in court.