With the submission by Christie for a stay on the same-sex marriage ruling denied, same-sex couples could legally and officially get married in the fullest sense of the word starting midnight on Monday, October 21. The long-term status of those marriages was unknown, but couples lined up to marry anyway, looking to achieve equal status in the eyes of the government.
The only thing keeping same-sex marriage from long-term legal status was Christie's appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court that was set to be heard in January. On the day that same-sex marriages were set to begin, Christie withdrew his appeal to the court, dissolving the final obstacle for same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
With this news comes relief for numerous New Jersey residents looking to get married, and gives same-sex couples who are already married in other states the freedom to move to New Jersey as well.
For some, this change brings questions. Couples who are currently in civil unions will have to apply for a marriage license if they wish to have marriage rights. Civil unions will not automatically be converted to marriages because entering into a civil union is still an option for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. View the Lambda Legal New Jersey Marriage Law FAQ.
Though the recent same-sex marriage decision in New Jersey can be seen as a victory, there are certain things that pro-same-sex marriage supporters should be aware of. An article in the New York Times discusses Christie's statements and reasons for his decision. They quote a spokesman for the governor who stated that "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... The governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."
At first pass, this quote may seem like a positive. Christie is, after all, going to enforce the law and attempt to ensure that all governmental agencies do the same. Upon further reading of the article, however, the Times states that Christie "has tried to walk a fine line on same-sex marriage" but "as recently as last week...repeated his position that he believed marriage to be between a man and a woman."
Christie's reason for withdrawing his appeal was not for the benefit of the people of New Jersey but because he "concluded it would be 'a fool's errand' to continue in the face of almost certain failure" and "acknowledged that the legal fight was probably a lost cause."
Christie's withdrawal can most definitely be seen mostly as a victory, one that activists hope will catapult other states to follow in New Jersey's footsteps. It is important, however, to seek equality for all and not to use the legal system as a bunker to hide behind. The people should vote on things that matter. But when it comes to injustice and inequality, it is even more important to take note of the actions of those with power. Christie has made it clear that he still opposes same-sex marriage, that "his back was to the wall" and made the most politically strategic decision. It is important to keep that in mind as equality groups fight to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.