TRENTON — Gay couples in New Jersey will be able to marry starting Monday.
The state Supreme Court Friday turned down Republican Gov. Chris Christie's administration request to delay same-sex marriages, clearing the way for the weddings to begin Oct. 21.
A lower-court judge had earlier ruled that same-sex weddings must be allowed starting Monday, and the administration requested a stay.
The Christie administration has also appealed a lower court decision that the state should allow same-sex marriages, and the high court is expected to hear arguments and render a decision on the broader issue over the next three months.
The ruling by the justices against the motion was unanimous, a sign that the administration's prospects for the full appeal are bleak.
"The State has advanced a number of arguments, but none of them overcome this reality: same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today. The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative," wrote Chief Justice Stuart Rabner in the decision.
"We applied settled legal standards and determined that the state has not shown a reasonable probability it will succeed on the merits,'' Rabner wrote.
Steven Goldstein, the former head of Garden State Equality, which filed the original lawsuit with other parties, said the court's decision on the stay allows the same-sex couples to "begin to tear down its Berlin Wall separating straight people who have had total freedom and LGBT who have not."
"Imagine the happiness you'd feel if you won the Super Bowl, the Nobel Prize and an Academy Award all in a single moment, and multiply it by a million. That's how we LGBT New Jerseyans feel right now," Goldstein said.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Mercer County Democrat who is openly gay, said he hoped the Christie administration would move quickly to provide guidance to municipalities dealing with an influx of same-sex couples seeking to get married.
"Equality has won out once again and I thank the Supreme Court for ruling on the side of justice," Gusciora said.
Thirteen states, many in the Northeast, now recognize gay marriage.