New Jersey's attorney general told Asbury Park city officials to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples and quit performing marriage ceremonies or face criminal charges. Attorney General Peter C. Harvey also warned state officials that those marriage licenses are invalid.
Letters were sent Tuesday to Asbury Park's city clerk, mayor, and deputy mayor. The notices come one day after the deputy mayor performed the state's first gay marriage. Harvey told Deputy Mayor James Bruno that he was wrong to perform the ceremony for the gay male couple. "We urge you to carry out your official duties in a manner consistent with the well-established court decisions and advice set forth in the accompanying letter to avoid the initiation of legal action by our office," Harvey wrote.
More marriages could mean "potential criminal prosecution," Harvey warned.
Gay marriage has so far been rejected by state courts. "The state is bound by the court, and the court has held that it is not legal," Gov. James E. McGreevey said. "Ultimately, we're a nation of laws, and we need to abide by the laws." McGreevey urged gay couples to take advantage of the state's recently passed domestic-partnership measure.
Same-sex couples, however, were still trying to get marriage licenses Tuesday before any court order halted the process. Eighteen couples filed for a license through Tuesday afternoon, and 10 applications had been completed, city officials said. Laura Jewell, spokeswoman for the city clerk's office, said Harvey's letter had been received and referred to the city's legal counsel. "Once it's been reviewed, the city will give a statement," Jewell said.
"I'm very disappointed," said Kara Snow, 43, of Jackson, who successfully filed for an application earlier Tuesday after arriving at 4 a.m. to make sure she was first in line when the clerk's office opened. "I think they could make a lot better use of their time and energy than this, such as feeding the hungry and the homeless." She said she and her partner were in the process of planning their wedding for Friday in Asbury Park, but they recognize there is a chance they won't be able to because of this state intervention. "It may not happen this time, but I'm confident it will happen in my lifetime," she said.