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N.J. City Warned on Gay Marriages

State attorney general tells Asbury Park officials they could face criminal charges.

March 10, 2004|From Associated Press

ASBURY PARK, N.J. — The day after New Jersey's first gay marriage was performed, the state attorney general Tuesday ordered city officials to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and performing gay marriages or face criminal charges.

Atty. Gen. Peter C. Harvey also warned officials that marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples were invalid.

Letters were sent Tuesday to the city clerk, mayor and deputy mayor, who married a male couple Monday.

"We urge you to carry out your official duties in a manner consistent with the well-established court decisions and advice set forth in the accompanying letter to avoid the initiation of legal action by our office," Harvey wrote.

More marriages could mean "potential criminal prosecution." A conviction could result in a fine of up to $10,000 and possible jail time, his office said.

Frederick C. Raffetto, an attorney for Asbury Park, said a decision would be announced today about whether the city would abide by the order.

Meanwhile, same-sex couples continued to file for licenses through Tuesday afternoon; 10 of 18 applications had been completed, officials said.

Gay marriage has so far been rejected by the state's courts. In November, a judge ruled that nothing in the state constitution guaranteed same-sex unions as a right, and that the Legislature had to enact changes to marriage law. Gay activists are appealing the ruling.

"I'm very disappointed," said Kara Snow, 43, who had arrived at 4 a.m. to make sure she was first in line when the city clerk's office opened. She said she hoped to wed Friday.

"It may not happen this time, but I'm confident it will happen in my lifetime," she said.

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