MONTCLAIR, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signaled that he will fight a ruling that ordered the State of New Jersey to begin granting same-sex marriage licenses.
As CBS 2's Jessica Schneider reported, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled in a summary judgment Friday that now that the federal government recognizes gay marriages, not doing so in New Jersey would violate the state constitution.
Advocates Celebrate N.J. Same-Sex Marriage Ruling
Web Extra: Read The Decision (.pdf)
Her order says the marriages could begin Oct. 21, which gives the state time to appeal and ask for a stay to block marriages from happening.
Christie's office said he will likely appeal the ruling, and will likely seek a stay to prevent same-sex marriages from beginning next month. He said in a statement that he "will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination."
Christie has always maintained this should be an issue for the people and decided by them, not the courts or lawmakers. He vetoed a same-sex marriage bill last year.
On Friday, same-sex marriage supporters claimed victory, after winning the first of what they acknowledged will be a continued fight for recognition of their marriage in New Jersey.
"We've been saying all along marriage equality in State of New Jersey was not a matter of if, it was a matter of when," said Mike Premo of New Jersey United for Marriage. "And the court today affirmed that we're a whole lot closer to 'when' than we were before."
Steph Mazzarella and Aileen Hayes got engaged last weekend, and now there is hope they will be able to marry in their home state.
"We're Jersey girls," Hayes said. "This is where we're from, you know, where we're raised."
The trial judge relied on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the United States v. Windsor case in June, which overturned a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
New Jersey couples argued that if gay marriage continued to be banned in their state, they would be ineligible for federal benefits. Judge Jacobson agreed.
"New Jersey same-sex couples in civil unions are no longer entitled to all of the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex married couples," she wrote. "Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution."
But some people around the state don't agree.
"Letting the decision stand by a New Jersey judge puts religious freedom at risk," said John Tomicki, president of the Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage. "Will clergy be directed now to perform same sex marriage even though it's against their religious beliefs? That is now happening in other states."
New Jersey's top court ruled in 2006 that gay couples had to have the same legal rights as married couples. Same-sex couples in New Jersey presently can enter into civil unions.
The latest decision came from the state's lowest trial court, so there is plenty of room for appeal.
Meanwhile, as 1010 WINS' Steve Sandberg reported, Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-Clifton) and other leading Democrats in the state Legislature believe they have enough votes to override Christie's earlier veto of same-sex marriage, separately from the court decision. He said the Legislature even has enough Republicans who plan to jump ship.
"I'm optimistic before January 1 that this would become the reality in New Jersey," Giblin said.
State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Edison), who is running against Christie for governor and whose daughter is openly lesbian, accused Christie of delaying the inevitable for political gain.
"We have to stop treating our gay brothers and sisters as second-class citizens," Buono said. "My daughter should not have to go into another state to marry the person she loves, and I personally am offended by his stance."
Legislators Seek To Override Christie's Gay Marriage Veto
The New Jersey ruling was one of two landmark decisions on gay marriage rights across the country Friday.
In Illinois, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sophia Hall ruled that a lawsuit challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage can go forward. The lawsuit – filed by partners of nearly 50 years James Darby, 81, and Patrick Bova, 75 – seeks to have the ban tossed out as unconstitutional, WBBM-TV, CBS 2 Chicago reported.
Currently, gay marriage is legal in New York and Connecticut, as well as California, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State, and Washington, D.C.
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