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New Jersey governor abandons challenge to gay marriage ruling

Senator-elect Cory Booker began conducting ceremonies after midnight Oct 21

In one of his last acts as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker married nine gay couples after midnight Oct 21. Credit: Screen shot from nj.com
US Senator-elect Cory Booker marries first gay couple in Newark City Hall nj.com

In one of his last duties as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker presided over the wedding ceremonies of gay and straight couples after midnight on Oct 21, just hours before Governor Chris Christie's administration gave notice that it will abandon its challenge of a pro-gay marriage ruling.

After declaring gay marriage legal in the state, Booker called forward the first couple to get married, Joseph Panessidi and Orville Bell, both 65, who have been together for 15 years.

Booker told the city hall gathering that it was one of the "greatest honours and privileges" of his life to be conducting the first wedding ceremonies during his time as mayor.

He added, "I get the chance to marry two gentlemen who are longstanding friends of mine, who are upstanding citizens of our state and city and community."

Booker also dismissed a heckler who tried to object to the ceremonies on biblical grounds, calling for his removal from the rotunda. He then resumed the ceremony, noting that he hadn't heard "any substantive and worthy objections" that would stop him from proceeding with the marriages, to the cheers and applause of the crowd.
 
At one point during the event, the senator-elect teared up, joking that he thought it was "illegal" to make the mayor cry, BuzzFeed reports.
 
He later toasted the nine couples, saying the moment was one that celebrated justice, righteousness, equality and love, the report adds.
 
New Jersey is now the 14th state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex marriage.
 
Booker noted that while New Jersey has taken a "leap forward" regarding civil rights, the reality in many American states is that gay people are still considered second-class citizens.
 
According to The New York Times, the Christie administration issued a statement, reiterating the governor's objection to a judicial recognition of gay marriage over the "constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people." But the statement adds that the court has "spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law.”