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N.J. Gov. Chris Christie drops fight against same-sex marriage

U.S. Sen.-elect -- then Newark, N.J., Mayor -- Cory Booker, speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 4, 2012. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/99584fee68b13fcb95e19b8ada55f74b/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
U.S. Sen.-elect -- then Newark, N.J., Mayor -- Cory Booker, speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 4, 2012. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

NEWARK, N.J., Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Gov. Chris Christie said Monday he would drop his fight against same-sex marriage in his state, withdrawing his appeal of a case before the state Supreme Court.

Across the Garden State Monday, same-sex couples were getting married for the first time after the state's top court refused Friday to delay the weddings while it heard Christie's appeal of a lower-court decision legalizing same-sex marriage last month.

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Christie said the court, by rejecting his request for a stay, made strong statements that settled the larger case, NJ.com reported.

Christie spokesman Colin Reed said Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, writing for the court in a 7-0 opinion, "left no ambiguity about the unanimous court's view on the ultimate decision in this matter when he wrote, 'same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today.'"

RELATED Cory Booker plans to marry gays in last days as Newark mayor

Still, the Republican governor criticized the court for taking the case. Christie, a potential candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, wants the matter decided by voters.

"Although the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law," Reed said. "The governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."

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A protester disrupted the first same-sex marriage ceremony Sen.-elect and Newark Mayor Cory Booker officiated at City Hall early Monday.

RELATED N.J. Supreme Court: Gay couples can marry -- at least for now

"It is officially past midnight. Marriage is now equal in New Jersey," Booker said to applause and cheers.

When he asked whether anyone objected to the marriage of the night's first couple, a protester yelled the marriages were "unlawful in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ," The (Hackensack) Record reported.

Officers removed the unidentified protester from the rotunda.

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Booker continued: "Not hearing any substantive objections, I will proceed with the vows."

The first couple whose marriage he officiated were retired advertising executive Joseph Panessidi and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender educator Orville Bell.

Booker, elected to the U.S. Senate in a special election Wednesday, presided over seven other weddings, gay and straight.

Mayors in other New Jersey cities and towns also opened their municipal offices to marry couples after midnight.

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