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Marriage fight intensifies in New Jersey

Associated Press

Two weeks ago, a state judge in New Jersey offered civil-right proponents some heartening news: Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ordered the state to begin officiating same-sex marriages on Oct. 21. The ruling was largely based on the Supreme Court precedent set in the Defense of Marriage Act case.

After Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration appealed the decision, it was widely assumed that the order would be put on hold, leaving the current law in place, while the case is litigated further.

But that's not quite what's happened.

A judge on Thursday cleared the way for same-sex marriages to start in New Jersey in two weeks, dismissing the state's request to prevent the weddings until after an appeal of the court decision allowing them is completed.

"There is no 'public interest' in depriving a class of New Jersey residents their constitutional rights while appellate review is pursued," wrote Judge Mary C. Jacobson of State Superior Court in Mercer County, who also wrote the decision last month that ordered the state to allow same-sex marriages. "On the contrary, granting a stay would simply allow the State to continue to violate the equal protection rights of New Jersey same-sex couples, which can hardly be considered a public interest." [...]

Judge Jacobson said in her opinion that the state had not demonstrated that its appeal was likely to be successful. And she denied the state's argument that New Jersey would suffer "irreparable harm" if marriages began happening, ruling instead that the people harmed would be the same-sex couples who would have to wait even longer to gain access to the federal benefits that the United States Supreme Court guaranteed them in a decision in June.

So, is that it? Will the Garden State finally join nearly every other state north of the Mason-Dixon line on marriage equality?

Not just yet. Christie, who last year vetoed a marriage-equality bill approved by the state legislature, immediately turned to the New Jersey Supreme Court to consider the case on an expedited basis, so as to prevent consenting adults who fall in love and wish to marry from doing so later this month.

The Republican governor's uphill struggle against civil rights notwithstanding, the state is inching closer to a breakthrough.