New Jersey judge allows same-sex marriage; state plans appeal
By Joseph Ax and Edith Honan
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New Jersey judge ordered state officials on Friday to allow same-sex couples to marry starting on October 21, saying the current civil union system unfairly deprived them of federal benefits available to married couples.
A spokesman for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie indicated the state would appeal, but did not say whether it would seek a stay to stop the ruling from taking effect.
Judge Mary Jacobson in Mercer County Superior Court in Trenton issued the order, making New Jersey the first state to lift a ban on gay marriage as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June to strike down the federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
"Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey constitution," she wrote.
Hayley Gorenberg of Lambda Legal, one of the attorneys for the gay couples who brought the lawsuit, said they would fight the state's appeal "every step of the way."
If Jacobson's decision stands, New Jersey would become the 14th state to permit gay marriage. It is also legal in the District of Columbia.
The ruling highlights the shifting legal and social landscape when it comes to gay marriage. Polls have shown increasing public support, and civil rights groups have prevailed at a number of courthouses across the country. Ten years ago, no U.S. states permitted gay marriage.
On Friday, Exxon Mobil Corp said same-sex spouses would be eligible for company benefits in light of the Supreme Court decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Continued...