NEW YORK: New Jersey's highest court ruled unanimously on Friday that gay marriages can go forward starting on Monday, denying the state's request to put them on hold while its appeal is considered.
Governor Chris Christie had asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to freeze a state judge's ruling legalizing gay marriage until the top court hears the case in January and issues a final decision.
But the court said in its ruling that the state had "not shown a reasonable probability it will succeed on the merits." All seven judges on the court joined the opinion, strongly suggesting they are prepared to accept same-sex marriage permanently.
New Jersey on Monday will become the 14th state to permit gay marriage. The District of Columbia has also legalized same-sex marriage.
Judge Mary Jacobson in Mercer County Superior Court in Trenton ruled three weeks ago in favor of several gay couples who had challenged the state's civil union law, finding that it unfairly restricted federal benefits that are guaranteed for heterosexual married couples.
A spokesman for Christie did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hayley Gorenberg, a lawyer with Lambda Legal who represents the gay couples, rejoiced at the news: "Take out the champagne glasses - wedding bells will soon be ringing in New Jersey."
Jacobson's ruling made New Jersey the first state to lift a gay marriage ban as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June to strike down the federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
In asking for a stay, the New Jersey attorney general's office argued that the state would suffer harm if gay marriage were not put on hold pending the appeal.