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Mayor Unites Same-Sex Couples After N.J. Supreme Court Ruling

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD: Solemn vows having been exchanged and official documents signed and witnessed, newlyweds Bob McQueen (right) and Rob Martens share smiles and laughter with Mayor Liz Lempert Friday. The same-sex couple are among the first to be married in Princeton after Governor Christie dropped the state of New Jersey’s appeal against a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court decision extending gay couples the right to marriage.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD: Solemn vows having been exchanged and official documents signed and witnessed, newlyweds Bob McQueen (right) and Rob Martens share smiles and laughter with Mayor Liz Lempert Friday. The same-sex couple are among the first to be married in Princeton after Governor Christie dropped the state of New Jersey’s appeal against a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court decision extending gay couples the right to marriage. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

Last Friday started out with drizzling rain and overcast skies. But by five o’clock, the time set for Bob McQueen and Rob Martens marriage ceremony, the skies had cleared and the afternoon sun had set the fall leaves aglow.

Mr. McQueen is Princeton’s Chief Information Officer, in charge of the information technology department; he’s worked for the municipality since 1998. Mr. Martens is a professor of biology at Brookdale Community College.

The grooms wore coordinating shirts for a simple ceremony held in Mayor Liz Lempert’s office at Witherspoon Hall. Ms. Lempert conducted the proceedings. Several of Mr. McQueen’s colleagues attended and clapped as official documents were signed and witnessed by Kathy Monzo, the municipality’s assistant administrator and director of finance, and Curt Berry, an information technology specialist.

Once the paperwork had been dealt with, amid much laughter over the proper protocol, vows were exchanged. As Ms. Lempert read the familiar lines: “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health …,” the mood grew a little more subdued. Tears coursed down Mr. McQueen’s cheeks as he and his partner became “lawful wedded husbands” and exchanged rings. “From this day forward, to love and to cherish, this is my solemn vow.”

The couple met three years ago on September 13. “We’ve been looking forward to this day, ever since,” said Mr. Martens.

Although a civil union  was held August 3, Friday’s ceremony was important to both of them, said Mr. Martens, because of the “recognition at the Federal level.”

“This is definitely one of the best parts of my job,” said Ms. Lempert. “Today has been especially busy, this is my third wedding and the second same sex union. It is extra special when the couple being married has been together for some time.”

Ms. Lempert was the first in Mercer County to officiate at a same-sex marriage on Monday, October 21, when Maria Boes and Susan Levine were married shortly after the New Jersey Supreme Court announced Friday, October 18, that it had denied a stay on same-sex marriages, rejecting Gov. Chris Christie’s effort to appeal Judge Mary Jacobson’s decision to allow them. With that, gay marriage became legal in New Jersey, the 14th state to recognize it, and the first to do so in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Ms. Boes and Ms. Levine, who have been together for over 30 years, were the first couple in Princeton to apply for a marriage license under the new ruling and had raced to the registrar’s office as soon as they discovered that Princeton was accepting applications.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had been fighting the legalization of gay marriage in the courts for months. He vetoed a bill in the state legislature last year that would have allowed it. But on October 21, Mr. Christie withdrew his appeal, bringing an end to a decade-long legal battle. Now same-sex couples are eligible for the financial benefits of marriage that have long been the privilege of heterosexual couples, including tax, medical, and other legal benefits.

The law marks a new era for equality in the state of New Jersey.

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