US & Canada

New Jersey gay marriage ban overturned by judge

New Jersey gay marriage advocate Kat McGuckin outside the US Supreme Court (file photo 30 November 2012)
Image caption Gay rights activists from New Jersey sought a ruling on their state's ban on same-sex marriage in the wake of a key Supreme Court judgement in July

A New Jersey court has lifted a ban on same-sex marriage but state Governor Chris Christie has said he intends to appeal against the decision.

Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson handed down the decision on Friday, finding the state's civil union system deprived those couples of certain federal benefits.

The ruling takes effect on 21 October.

Thirteen US states, including much of the North East, currently allow same-sex marriage.

Image caption Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson lifted a ban on same-sex marriage in the state of New Jersey on Friday

The ruling follows a June US Supreme Court decision striking down key parts of a law that prohibited the federal government from granting benefits to same-sex partners.

That same month, a group of same-sex couples and gay rights groups sued the state of New Jersey. They said the separate classification of "civil unions" did not entitle them to the same benefits as married persons.

Judge Jacobson ruled in their favour, finding the separate labels excluded gay couples from certain benefits, such a filing a joint federal tax return.

"Every day that the state does not allow same-sex couples to marry, plaintiffs are being harmed," she wrote in her opinion.

The order will not take effect until 21 October, allowing the state time to challenge the ruling.

Following the decision, a spokesman for New Jersey Gov Chris Christie told the media his office intends to lodge an appeal against the ruling with the state Supreme Court.

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