updated 3/9/2004 10:25:22 PM ET 2004-03-10T03:25:22

The day after New Jersey’s first gay marriage was performed, the state attorney general Tuesday ordered city officials to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and performing gay marriages — or face criminal charges.

Attorney General Peter C. Harvey also warned officials marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples are invalid.

Letters were sent Tuesday to the city clerk, mayor and deputy mayor, who married two gay men Monday. Harvey told Deputy Mayor James Bruno he was wrong to do so.

“We urge you to carry out your official duties in a manner consistent with the well-established court decisions and advice set forth in the accompanying letter to avoid the initiation of legal action by our office,” Harvey wrote.

More marriages could mean “potential criminal prosecution.” A conviction could result in a fine up to $10,000 and possible jail time, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office said.

Frederick C. Raffetto, an attorney for Asbury Park, said a decision would be announced Wednesday about whether the city intended to abide by the order.

Meanwhile, same-sex couples continued to file for licenses through Tuesday afternoon; 10 of 18 applications had been completed, officials said.

Gay marriage has so far been rejected by state courts. Last Nov. 5, a judge ruled nothing in the state constitution guarantees same-sex unions as a right, and that the appropriate forum to change marriage laws is the Legislature. The ruling is being appealed by gay activists.

“The state is bound by the court, and the court has held that it is not legal,” Gov. James E. McGreevey said. “Ultimately we’re a nation of laws and we need to abide by the laws.”

McGreevey urged gay couples to take advantage of New Jersey’s recently passed domestic partnership measure.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Kara Snow, 43. Snow, who arrived at 4 a.m. to make sure she was first in line when the city clerk’s office opened. She said she hoped to wed Friday — though the state might intervene first.

“It may not happen this time, but I’m confident it will happen in my lifetime,” she said.

Elsewhere Tuesday:

  • The son of California’s most prominent opponent of gay marriage exchanged vows with his longtime boyfriend. David J. Knight, 42, the son of state Sen. William J. “Pete” Knight, married his partner Joseph J. Lazzaro, 39, in San Francisco.

The elder Knight is a Republican senator who authored a successful 2000 ballot initiative that strengthened California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

  • Cardinal Edward Egan and Roman Catholic bishops in New York lobbied lawmakers over the gay marriage issue. Two bills are currently before the Legislature in Albany, N.Y. — one that would make gay marriage legal, the other that would make it illegal. Twenty-five same-sex couples were married in late February in the village of New Paltz, N.Y.

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