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N.J. Gay Marriages Begin; Gov. Drops Appeal

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on October 21, 2013 11:15 AM

New Jersey's first same-sex marriage ceremonies took place just after midnight Monday, making New Jersey the 14th state to recognize gay marriage.

Just hours after those historic same-sex nuptials, New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced that his administration would withdraw its legal challenge to gay marriage in the Garden State. Last month, a judge ruled that the state must allow same-sex marriage, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor.

Christie's decision to drop his appeal essentially removes the final barrier to same-sex marriage in New Jersey.

Windsor and the End of DOMA, Section 3

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") on equal protection grounds. The Court held that the federal government must provide the same benefits to gay married couples as it does to heterosexual married couples.

As a result, most federal agencies are recognizing same-sex marriages -- but it's to the exclusion of same-sex civil unions. There is currently proposed federal legislation that would extend the same benefits of marriage to civil unions.

The N.J. Decision: Garden State Equality v. Dow

Prior to the ruling in Garden State Equality v. Dow, New Jersey only allowed same-sex couples to get civil unions, which would deprive them of the protections now guaranteed by Windsor.

In light of the Windsor ruling, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson found that by not allowing same-sex couples to get married, New Jersey was depriving them of the ability to get federal benefits and was "harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts."

As a result, Jabobson held that "same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution."

Christie Nixes Appeal

Gov. Christie planned to appeal the decision and sought a stay to prevent the marriages from taking place. But his petition was denied, reports The New York Times.

When it became increasingly apparent that the appeal was not likely to prevail in court, Christie's administration formally withdrew the appeal in a letter to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Christie's decision is significant as the withdrawal effectively removes the last hurdle from legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey.

Now, 14 states and the District of Columbia allow gay couples to marry, reports the Times.

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