- Judge upholds her September ruling on same-sex marriage
- Civil unions are allowed in New Jersey for same-sex couples
- Judge says that's not enough to allow couples federal benefits
A New Jersey judge rejected the state's appeal to halt same-sex marriages on Thursday, clearing the way for couples to marry later this month.
Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson denied the state's motion to stay her September 27 ruling that civil unions were insufficient because they hindered federal benefits.
In that ruling, Jacobson cited the U.S. Supreme Court's June rejection of part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a move that ensured that same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits.
The state argued in its appeal that it already provides equal marital rights and benefits to same-sex couples in New Jersey with civil unions, saying any federal benefits or rights deprived to partners in civil unions fall on the shoulders of the federal government, not theirs.
But in her ruling on Thursday, Jacobson said the inability for partners in civil unions to access federal marriage benefits violates New Jersey's constitution.
Same-sex couples will be able to wed beginning October 21. However, the state will seek a stay of the ruling from an appellate court, said Lee Moore, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office. Lee said the state will continue to seek an expedited review of the case by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
"This is a historic moment for all loving and committed couples in New Jersey," said Mike Premo of New Jersey United For Marriage. "The fact that those who have waited so long for this moment can get married in just 11 days is truly amazing and something to be celebrated."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office, which said after the September 27 ruling that it had wanted the "issue of marriage equality" to be on the ballot this November," declined any new comment on Thursday. Aides referred CNN to Christie's remarks from the gubernatorial debate this week.
"I don't think (the issue) should be decided by 121 politicians in Trenton or seven judges on the Supreme Court," Christie said in his debate against Democratic State Sen. Barbara Buono. "It should be decided by the 8.8 million people of New Jersey, and if they do decide to change the definition of marriage by referendum then I will support that law and enforce that part of the constitution with the same vigor that I've done for the last four years with every other part."