NBC 4 New York
Gay couples in New Jersey exchanged nuptials early Monday morning as same-sex marriage became legal in the Garden State at 12:01 a.m.
In city halls across the Garden State, straight and gay couples exchanged wedding vows early Monday as New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Hours later, Gov. Chris Christie's administration on Monday withdrew its appeal of the case, and said the governor would "do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."
The court last week refused to delay a lower court order for the state to start recognizing marriages, clearing the way for the marriages to begin shortly after midnight.
Mayors in cities and towns including Newark, Jersey City, Red Bank, Asbury Park and Lambertville opened their city halls late Sunday to marry couples.
Calling it one of "the greatest privileges and honors" of his life, Newark's mayor, Senator-elect Cory Booker, married nine couples, seven gay and two straight, just after the stroke of midnight.
"It is officially past midnight, marriage is now equal in New Jersey," Booker said to applause and cheers.
When he asked if anyone objected to the marriage of the night's first couple, a protester yelled that the marriages were "unlawful in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ."
But officers removed protesters from the rotunda as Booker continued with the nuptials, saying "not hearing any substantive and worthy objections," to loud applause and cheers.
One couple to marry early Monday said they felt they were a part of history.
"We're in our sixties, which means we've seen tremendous history of monumental events," said one of the men. "This is one of those monumental events, that I can be here today and say I'm married to another man."
In Lambertville, Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey smiled through a ceremony in the same crowded municipal courtroom where almost seven years ago they became one of the first couples in the state joined in a civil union.
"We remained optimistic and hopeful that we would be able to gather together to do the right thing, the just thing, and see our two friends get married," Mayor Dave DelVecchio, who led both the 2007 ceremony and Monday's, said before leading the couple of 27 years through their vows as their 13-year-old daughter served as the flower girl.
"We're floating on air," Asaro, in a salmon pink suit said afterward. "It's like winning the Super Bowl," said her wife, who wore a black pant suit.
A judge on a lower court had ruled last month that New Jersey must recognize same-sex marriage and set Monday as the date to allow weddings. Christie had appealed the decision and asked the state's highest court for the start date to be put on hold while the state appeals.
But the court did not delay the start of the marriages, saying Friday that the state was not likely to prevail in its appeal arguments next year.
In withdrawing his appeal, Christie's office said he "strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people," but added that the court has spoken clearly as to its view of New Jersey law.
Another hurdle presented itself in the form of the state's three-day waiting period between obtaining a marriage license and being wed. But groups were able to arrange for judges to waive the waiting period so the marriages could go on after midnight.
The executive director of Garden State Equality, Troy Stevenson, said the waiting period might have delayed some weddings.
"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."