New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration on Tuesday asked a judge to delay implementation of her order that the state allow gay marriage until an appeal can be decided, saying the state will suffer "irreparable harm'' if same-sex marriages are allowed without its highest court weighing in.
The motion was an expected part of the fallout from Friday's ruling by Judge Mary Jacobson that the state must recognize same-sex marriage starting Oct. 21. The administration of the Republican governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate said hours after the ruling that it would appeal, and it announced Monday that it would seek to keep any gay marriages from being performed while the appeal is being considered.
Christie and Democrats alike want the matter to be fast-tracked to the state Supreme Court, skipping the usual step at an intermediate appellate court.
The ruling was the first of its kind in a state court since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the federal government can't deny benefits to married same-sex couples. Jacobson agreed with a group of New Jersey couples that in light of that ruling the state is now blocking couples from receiving federal benefits in violation of the state constitution.
The state, in its legal filing Friday, contended that it would be wrong for a lower-court judge to reverse policy made by lawmakers. It also cited implications of the ruling that could go beyond same-sex marriage because of the ruling that a federal decision put the state government in violation of its own constitution.
"Never before has any court at any level declared that the validity of a state statute under the state constitution depends on the vicissitudes of a third party actor with whom the State has no nexus and over whom it has no control,'' it said.
New Jersey also questions that lesbian and gay couples who have civil unions, which were designed to offer the same legal benefits and protections as marriage, won't be treated as spouses by federal agencies.
Lawyers for a group of gay couples and a gay-rights group that sued the state in July have until Friday to respond to the state's filing.
Christie, who opposes gay marriage but favors civil unions, has said repeatedly that the question of whether to recognize same-sex nuptials should be put to a ballot question.
Last year, he vetoed a law that would have allowed gay marriage, which is allowed in 13 other states. The Democrat-controlled state Legislature is calling for an override vote by January.