New Jersey Marries First Same-Sex Couples in Midnight Ceremonies Held Across the State


A three-tier cake, white roses, and champagne were on hand Monday morning at Newark City Hall, where Mayor Cory Booker married some of the state’s first same-sex couples shortly after the stroke of midnight. A state court officially recognized the right for same-sex couples to marry in September.

“It is officially past midnight: Marriage is now equal in New Jersey,” Booker told the crowd.

Governor Chris Christie had petitioned the court to prevent same-sex marriages from being performed while lawyers prepare to appeal the court’s decision, but on Friday, New Jersey’s State Supreme Court rejected the motion.

Couples across the state wasted no time taking advantage of the ruling. First in line in Newark were Joesph Panessidi, a retired advertising executive, and Orville Bell, an LGBT educator, both 65. Booker helped nine couples tie the knot in all, including two straight couples. The Newark mayor had refused to officiate any marriages while same-sex unions were illegal in the state.

An hour away, in Lambertville, Mayor David DelVecchio led the ceremony to marry City Councilmember Beth Asaro and her partner, Joanne Schailey.

In Elizabeth, Louise Walpin and Marsha Shapiro, plaintiffs in the lawsuit paving the way for New Jersey’s same-sex couples to wed, were married as well. The ceremony, officiated by Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley, took place at the home of state Senator Raymond Lesniak and his wife, New Jersey Civil Rights Commission secretary Salena Carroll.

Monday’s ceremonies were full of joy, but as Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality, noted on Friday, the legal battle is not over yet. New Jersey’s State Supreme Court had rejected Governor Christie’s motion to delay marriages, but the court did agree to hear arguments appealing the ruling beginning in January.

“[T]his is not the time to rest, it is the time to recommit, it is the time to pull out all the stops,” Stevenson said in a statement on Friday. “We will not rest until we guarantee the freedom to marry to every New Jerseyan, and we are certain that it can never be taken away.”

On the next page: Scenes from New Jersey’s first day of marriage equality….