VICTORY: NJ Governor withdraws appeal; the freedom to marry is the law of the land!

This morning, on the first day of the freedom to marry in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie's administration withdrew his appeal of a Superior Court ruling that ordered NJ to begin performing and respecting marriages of same-sex couples. The administration will no longer challenge the court ruling that granted same-sex couples the freedom to marry, beginning just after midnight.

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson celebrated this morning in a statement. He said:

At long last, the freedom to marry is now permanently law of the land in New Jersey. The marriages of loving, committed couples throughout the Garden State, combined with Governor Christie's withdrawal of his appeal, is joyous news to New Jerseyans, both gay and non-gay. The momentum continues to build nationwide and we are working hard to deliver victories in Hawaii, Illinois and New Mexico yet in 2013.

The decision comes just a few hours after the first same-sex couples began marrying in New Jersey. This morning, as the clock moved from midnight to 12:01 a.m., same-sex couples across the state declared their love and commitment for each other as New Jersey became the fourteenth state to begin marrying same-sex couples. 

The big day came just a few days after the New Jersey Supreme Court announced that they would deny the Christie administration's request for a stay in a lower court's marriage ruling, which ordered New Jersey to begin marrying couples on October 21, 2013. That ruling, from Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobsen in Garden State Equality v. Dow, found that denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples violates NJ law. 

Here are some photos from the first same-sex couples in New Jersey tying the knot on this truly joyous day: 

One of the first couples to wed was Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey, who were joined in marriage by officiant David DelVecchio, the mayor of Lambertville, NJ. The mayor had previously joined Beth and Joanne as the first same-sex couple in NJ to enter into a civil union back in 2007. (Photo by AP)

In Newark, Senator-elect Cory Booker, who serves as the city's mayor, officiated weddings for nine same-sex couples, including Jenelle and Lydia. (Photo by ACLU-NJ) 

See video footage from the wedding of Joseph Panessidi and Orville Bell in Newark:

Booker declared to all nine couples (including Liz Salerno and Gabriela Celeiro), "By the power vested in me by the state of New Jersey, I declare you to be lawful spouses. You may kiss your spouse." (Photo by New Jersey United for Marriage)

Members of the Freedom to Marry team - National Campaign Director Marc Solomon, Director of Political Operations Shawn Werner, Online Organizer Juliann DiNicola, and Web and Graphic Designer Christian Oliveira (who lives in Newark) - gathered in Newark last night to celebrate alongside all of the happy couples.

First official same sex marriage in South Orange, NJ officiated by Mayor Alex Torpey. (Photo by Garden State Equality)

In Jersey City, many same-sex couples tied the knot and celebrated this huge step forward in their state. (Photo by Nathan Bullock)

One of the plaintiff families in Garden State Equality v. Dow, the case that prompted the start of marriages this morning, is the McFaden family, who celebrated in Asbury Park, NJ this morning. (Photo by Garden State Equality)

This morning, same-sex couples, many joined by the mayors of their cities or towns, celebrated a historic moment – but marriage for gay and lesbian couples is still uncertain. The Court will hear arguments and issue a ruling in the case – but the earliest they will rule is January 2014. The freedom to marry can still be taken away from New Jersey families. The legislature is still the quickest path to secure marriage in the Garden State – and we need our legislators to act so that no one in New Jersey will ever again be denied the freedom to marry the person they love. New Jersey United for Marriage is the coalition working to rally lawmakers in the state to take action, and Freedom to Marry is proud to serve as a leading and founding member of the coaltion. 

Today, on the first day of the freedom to marry in New Jersey, we celebrate this huge step forward and very happy occasion. And while we're celebrating, we'll be continuing to make the case for marriage to the NJ legislature, who now, more than ever, have the oppotunity to see that same-sex couples marrying helps these families enormously and hurts no one. 

Learn more about New Jersey United for Marriage!

Victory Photo by Kaua Wedding Photography.