ASBURY PARK, N.J. – The state attorney general of New Jersey ordered city officials to stop performing same-sex marriages and issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and informed of possible criminal charges saying marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples are invalid.
Attorney General Peter C. Harvey sent letters to the city clerk, mayor, and deputy mayor, who performed same-sex marriages yesterday. He wrote:
"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.”
According to a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, more marriages could mean “potential criminal prosecution” and a conviction could result in a fine up to $10,000 and possible jail time.
Frederick C. Raffetto, an attorney for Asbury Park, said on Wednesday it will be announced whether the city intended to abide by the order.
Although many same-sex couples continue filing for marriage licenses, state courts have been rejecting them. Last Nov. 5, a judge ruled the state constitution doesn’t guarantee same-sex unions as a right. So far 10 of 18 applications had been completed.
"The state is bound by the court, and the court has held that it is not legal," Gov. James E. McGreevey said. "Ultimately we're a nation of laws and we need to abide by the laws."
Meanwhile in New York, Cardinal Edward Egan and Roman Catholic bishops lobbied lawmakers over the issue. Both bills, one that opposes gay marriage and the other favors gay marriage are currently filed before the Legislature in Albany, N.Y.
"My position would be that marriage would be an agreement to be faithful and to stay together in a union between a man and woman with openness to children and with a seeking of mutual support," Egan said after a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. "I believe that this is perhaps the position of every civilization as long as we know."