The Asbury Park, N.J., city council voted Wednesday to stop taking applications from gay couples seeking marriage licenses, but it will file a lawsuit seeking a court ruling allowing the marriages to resume. The vote was 5-0. The council met behind closed doors Wednesday morning after the state attorney general ordered city officials late Tuesday to stop accepting applications from gay couples or face prosecution.
Councilman John M. Loffredo said the council acted reluctantly. "I've had friends who were beaten for no other reason than they were gay. For us to deny anyone the right to marry is wrong," he said. Council members said they would seek a declaratory judgment affirming that a same-sex marriage ceremony performed Monday by the city's deputy mayor was legal and that the city could continue issuing marriage licenses to gays.
No timetable was set. In the meantime, officials said, the city would accept no more applications and consider all pending applications denied. The council voted not to expend public funds on the lawsuit but to seek funding from unspecified gay rights groups.
In letters to city officials sent Tuesday afternoon, Attorney General Peter C. Harvey threatened prosecution if they did not cease and desist in the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The action came at the close of a day in which more than a dozen gay and lesbian couples descended upon City Hall in hopes that they could receive licenses and marry before Harvey made good on promises to invalidate the unions.