Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey made history this morning, October 21, 2013, becoming the first same sex couple in the state of New Jersey to be legally married. Asaro and Schailey were married shortly after midnight on a day that Garden State Equality executive director, Troy Stevenson called “the day that New Jerseyans have been waiting for for decades.” Asaro and Schailey were also the first same sex couple to be joined in a civil union in New Jersey back in 2007.

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed newly passed same-sex marriage legislation in February of 2012, ostensibly setting progress back in the Garden state. However, three weeks ago Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled in favor of same-sex plaintiffs challenging New Jersey’s civil union law. Judge Jacobson cited to the DOMA case, Windsor v. United States, ruling that New Jersey’s civil union law interfered with federal benefits that are guaranteed for same-sex couples. The superior court decision held that same-sex marriages could start on October 21, 2013. Hours after the first marriage licenses were issued, Gov. Christie announced that he would not challenge the court’s decision.

So what does this mean for same-sex couples in New Jersey?

For same-sex couples looking to get married, there is a mandatory 72 hour waiting period after submitting an application for a marriage license. The couple should complete the application and sign it under oath before a Registrar and a witness. The waiting period can be waived by the Superior Court if the couple presents satisfactory proof that an emergency exists.

For same-sex couples married out-of-state, the New Jersey state government SHOULD be recognizing the marriage as heterosexual couples married out-of-state have been given recognition in New Jersey, but no final answer has been given by the NJ courts. Same-sex couples can apply for remarriage or reaffirmation of their out-of-state marriage in New Jersey.

While the landmark decision impacts marriages, it does not affect existing civil unions from New Jersey. For same-sex couples with civil unions in New Jersey, the court’s decision does not automatically convert civil unions into legal marriage. The couple can choose to get married and dissolve the civil union or get married and keep the civil union intact. In the event that the couple separates, the couple would have to obtain both a divorce and dissolution of their civil union. If you are a PA resident with a NJ civil union, it is unaffected and still cannot be dissolved. Couples concerned about any of the legal issues involved can consult an attorney at the Giampolo Law Group and PhillyGayLawyer.com: http://giampololaw.com/

New Jersey is the 14th state to legalize same-sex marriage, joining California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, leaving neighbor state Pennsylvania as the only state in the Northeast without marriage equality or civil unions.

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