N.J. attorney general to seek injunction to stop same-sex marriages

BY admin

March 10 2004 12:00 AM ET

A same-sex couple's marriage in Asbury Park, N.J.'s City Hall prompted at least seven other couples to show up at the city clerk's office on Tuesday hoping to obtain marriage licenses before state attorney general Peter C. Harvey began seeking an injunction to bar officials from issuing any more. Couples entering the office to obtain the necessary paperwork were surrounded by cameras and reporters.

Some were turned away, however, and told that at least one of the partners had to reside in Asbury Park. Marriage licenses could be given to out-of-state couples, though, officials said.

The first couple to successfully file their application on Tuesday were Donna Harrison, 42, and her partner of seven years, Kathy Ragauckas, 41, who both live in Asbury Park. "We're Americans, we pay our taxes, we love each other, and there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to express that," Harrison said.

Hours after the state's first marriage took place on Monday, state attorney general Peter C. Harvey said that licenses issued to gay and lesbian couples by Asbury Park officials are not valid. Harvey said his office will seek an injunction to stop the issuing of more licenses. "It's our view that any town that issues a marriage license to same-sex couples is not in compliance with the law and is essentially issuing worthless paper, since we suspect it will not be enforced by any court in this state," Harvey said.

But that didn't discourage couples seeking licenses Tuesday. "I would think that the attorney general has better things to do than legislate love between two consenting adults," Harrison said.

If a court tells the city to stop, the clerk will not issue more licenses, said Kate Mellina, a member of the Asbury Park city council. City officials, who had been "flooded by requests for marriages," do not think state law specifically bans same-sex marriages, she said. "When we get an official opinion, we'll know what the official opinion is," said Mellina, who attended the wedding on Monday. "It was just a very private, wonderful ceremony. It was just a marriage."

After learning of Monday's ceremony, Gov. James E. McGreevey asked the attorney general to determine if city officials broke the law by issuing the marriage licenses and, if so, to take appropriate action, McGreevey spokesman Micah Rasmussen said. "It's a legal question, not a political or policy one," Rasmussen said.

On November 5 the law division of the New Jersey superior court held that New Jersey's marriage statutes do not permit same-sex marriages. Nothing in the state constitution guarantees same-sex unions as a right, and the appropriate forum to change marriage laws is the legislature, the judge ruled. The ruling is being appealed by gay activists, including Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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