TRENTON, N.J. -- Several gay couples in New Jersey are expected to gather late Sunday to wed in ceremonies to be held shortly after midnight.
The last-minute weddings were planned after the state Supreme Court last week refused to delay a lower court order for the state to begin recognizing same-sex marriages at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Gov. Chris Christie's administration has a pending appeal, but justices said they would not hold up marriages while they consider it. The justices said they did not think the state's arguments were likely to prevail and that delaying the lower court's order would hurt couples who would not become eligible for certain federal benefits until they could legally marry in New Jersey.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Lambertville Mayor David DelVecchio both plan to lead ceremonies for gay couples at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Hoboken, Collingswood and a handful of other towns opened municipal offices Saturday to accept applications for marriage licenses from same-sex couples.
Activists still were working Saturday to line up judges who could waive the three-day waiting period for same-sex couples who want to exchange vows first thing Monday. Under state law, couples normally must wait 72 hours after applying for a marriage license before they can tie the knot.
Garden State Equality executive director Troy Stevenson said the effort to get couples hitched without the waiting period was a "work in progress." He didn't have specific details on how many judges were available to consider couples' waivers during the weekend, but he said many marriages will be held across the state at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Officials noted that state law says couples married legally elsewhere can wed in New Jersey without a waiting period -- a provision that appears to apply to many New Jersey couples.
Many same-sex couples began scrambling to plan their weddings shortly after the state Supreme Court issued its unexpected decision Friday. They reached out to florists, photographers, catering firms, banquet halls and other wedding-related businesses to see what was available on short notice.
Justin Jordan, a photographer who shoots many weddings in southern New Jersey, said he's heard from "numerous couples" since Friday.
"Many people have been waiting anxiously for the chance to get married, and now that they have the chance to do it, they're jumping at the opportunity," Jordan said. "But they're also realizing everything that goes with a wedding, like getting a photographer or video person, buying flowers, arranging for food ... it's a daunting task when you have months to plan, let alone a few days."
Among those seeking their licenses Saturday morning were Hoboken residents Paul Somerville and Allen Kratz, who have been together since 1985. They were previously married in Oregon in 2004, only to have the union nullified by the state's supreme court. They also have been part of a domestic partnership in 2006 and a civil union in 2008, both through the city of Hoboken.
The couple said they will receive their license on Tuesday and plan to wed Thursday in a private ceremony. Kratz told The Jersey Journal that it's wonderful to be able to marry his longtime partner.
"Civil rights always come too early for those in a comfortable position of power and never soon enough for those who have been denied life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Kratz said.