Confusion abounds over N.J. gay marriages
TRENTON, N.J. — With the advent of same-sex marriage in New Jersey, couples are thrilled and, in many cases, confused about how to proceed.
Advocates and others are claiming that the state of New Jersey did not give ample instructions to town clerks and others on how to administer marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Same-sex marriages were scheduled to begin at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The New Jersey Supreme Court last week refused to delay a lower court order for the state to start recognizing marriages. The case, however, is still on appeal.
Several couples planned to marry minutes after the state began recognizing the unions. Yet other said they had not been able to get a license. New Jersey law requires that couples wait three days between obtaining a license and getting married.
“There's a lot of mass confusion, and it boils down to the fact that the state should have issued guidance a week ago,” said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality.
Stevenson said he has 15 volunteer lawyers who are scrambling to find judges who are willing to waive the three-day requirement for couples.
“We're hoping to make miracles happen, but I wish we didn't have to,” he said.
Karen and Marcye Nicholson-McFadden, two plaintiffs in the lawsuit that brought same-sex marriage to the state, said they have not been able to get a license to wed.
The couple said the clerk in their hometown of Aberdeen told them Friday that she could not issue them a marriage license without further instruction from the state.
Gov. Chris Christie had instructed the Department of Health to cooperate with municipalities to issue licenses. The clerk did not immediately return a call to comment Sunday. A Christie spokesman did not return an email seeking comment.
“It's just very frustrating after being made to wait for so many years. The state had an order from a judge. It's clear they did nothing to prepare and to communicate,” Karen Nicholson-McFadden said. “It's terrible. It sucks some of the joy out of Friday,” when the court made its ruling.
The couple plans to try again for a license Monday and get married as soon as they can. They've been together for 24 years and have two children.
“We will do it as soon as we can because we've waited for so long. You don't want to tempt fate,” Karen Nicholson-McFadden said. “You want to make sure the moment you can you have every one of these benefits and protections and then we go into party planning mode.”
Two other plaintiffs, Louise Walpin and Marsha Shapiro, planned to seal their 24-year union with a midnight wedding at the home of state Sen. Ray Lesniak, a sponsor of the vetoed gay marriage law. Another state lawmaker who's been a longtime advocate for same-sex marriage, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, is to walk the couple down the aisle.
Little seems to have changed since the court's decision Friday. On the New Jersey Department of Health's website under “How to Apply for a Marriage License,” requirements include “Be of the opposite sex.”
Mayors in cities and towns including Newark, Jersey City, Asbury Park and Lambertville plan to open City Hall late Sunday and marry couples as soon as possible.
But confusion reigned Friday when applying for licenses, and Stevenson said he expects to see far more weddings in the coming week.
“If they could, hundreds and hundreds of couples would get married tonight,” Stevenson said Sunday. “But with this waiting period, it's not going to be as many as they hoped.”
There is now also a push in the state legislature to gather enough votes to override Christie's veto of a same-sex marriage bill. Christie does not support same-sex marriage and has said he wants to put the issue on the ballot.
Democratic Sen. Ray Lesniak said even though the Supreme Court's decision was unanimous and strongly worded, there is a chance it could be overturned. By codifying same-sex marriage into law, it would add another layer of protection.
“There's also a limbo period now,” he said. “Yes, it's easy for us to say a strongly worded unanimous decision by the supreme court on this day leaves little chance that this decision will be overturned, but by an override we will eliminate any change.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Supreme Court’s health care law ruling worries 34 states
- Homeland Security panned for passing on bio-threat technology
- Most young Republicans back legal marijuana
- Buffet: Berkshire’s built to last
- Paul edges Walker in CPAC straw poll
- Perceived slights have some New Yorkers longing for Pennsylvania
- Florida fisherman’s high court win spurs call for legal reform
- Huge, ancient quasar could alter theories on black holes
- Gene making human brains bigger found
- Monarch butterflies find milkweed supply dwindles
- Congress approves 1-week funding measure for Homeland Security