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Same-sex couples may get a nice holiday greeting from Asbury Park, N.J., with the city council set to endorse marriage equality, possibly on the morning of Christmas Eve.
Asbury Park city council members said Wednesday they plan to approve a resolution supporting marriage equality and may do so at a special meeting scheduled for December 24 to discuss an unrelated issue.
While granting marriage rights is up to the state -- and New Jersey legislators are considering a marriage equality bill -- the Jersey Shore resort town can send state lawmakers an important message, observers said.
"It's very exciting," Steven Goldstein, chair of gay group Garden State Equality, told the Asbury Park Press. "The expected passage of a resolution by Asbury Park for marriage equality really encapsulates all that New Jersey has to gain economically." Because of the money that stands to be spent on weddings and tourism, marriage equality is not only morally right but "will be an engine of economic progress for all people," Goldstein added.
"I think this is part of the path forward," said Asbury Park mayor Ed Johnson, who married his partner, Jeff Lundenberger, six years ago in Canada.
Asbury Park, which in recent years has attracted many new gay residents who have bought homes and opened businesses, has already played a key role in the state's battle over same-sex marriage. In 2004 city council member James Bruno offered to marry a local gay couple, and other couples rushed to obtain marriage licenses in Asbury Park until the state attorney general stopped the city from issuing them. Bruno's "courageous stand" jump-started the state's marriage equality movement, Johnson said.
Three other New Jersey cities -- Maplewood, Red Bank, and South Orange -- have already endorsed marriage equality.