As gay marriage became legal in New Jersey at 12:01 a.m. today, Newark Mayor Cory Booker officiated a ceremony for seven gay couples and two heterosexual couples. After they took their vows, he celebrated the state’s new status as the 14th in the nation to recognize gay marriage: “This state now is resonant with the core values of our country, with the idea that there is no second-class citizenship in America, that we’re all equal under the law.”
It was one of his last acts before joining the U.S. Senate. When Booker asked if anyone had reason to object to the marriages, a protester screamed, “This is unlawful in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ.”
Booker call for the man to be removed, and the police dragged him out.
Same-sex marriage became legal in New Jersey, at least temporarily, on Friday, when the state Supreme Court declined to stop the ceremonies while Gov. Chris Christie appealed a lower court decision legalizing gay marriage. The state has had civil unions since 2007.
Less than 10 hours after the first gay couples took their vows, Christie dropped his opposition and his appeal, ensuring the early-morning marriages will stand and permanently legalizing gay marriage in the state.
“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,” Christie’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said in a statement.
Monday’s weddings came amid a flurry of legal activity after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the federal government should recognize gay marriages and confer couples with the same benefits offered to heterosexual married couples.
A state judge last month agreed with gay-marriage advocates who said that by allowing civil unions but not marriage, New Jersey was keeping gay couples from legal equality. Christie initially appealed both the ruling and Monday's implementation date, insisting the issue should be put to a vote in a statewide referrendum.
While marriage supporters have lost their fight in the courts, the fight for religious liberty has only just begun. Lawmakers must now codify the court’s gay marriage ruling, likely passing a law similar to one Christie vetoed last year. The law will determine what happens to existing civil unions, what recognition out-of-state marriages will receive, and what protections religious institutions will have.
The 2012 bill fully protected religious institutions from lawsuits—but did not protect Christian business owners. The legislation expected to move foward in the coming weeks will be a chance for business-owning citizens to advocate for equal protection under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.