New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize gay marriage on Monday, after Gov. Chris Christie withdrew his challenge to the state’s new legislation. Christie claimed the court's ruling on same-sex marriage "left no ambiguity."
Outspoken Democrat Cory Booker, the state’s Senate-elect and former Mayor of Newark, was quick to voice his support for the new marriage laws. As Booker has demonstrated throughout his extremely public political life, he also backed his support with action.
Booker officiated seven same-sex weddings Newark City Hall last night, beginning immediately after the new legislation went into effect at midnight.
“It is officially past midnight, marriage is now equal in New Jersey,” Booker said in a speech prior to officiating the weddings. Large crowds had gathered to celebrate at City Hall, which had stayed open late in order to handle the new marriage ceremonies.
The first wedding Booker officiated was the marriage of his longtime friends Orville Belle and Joseph Panessidi, a couple of 15 years. Panessidi is a a retired ad executive and Bell is an LGBTQ educator, according to NBC News.
At the point of the ceremony when Booker asked whether or not anyone had objections to the marriage, a heckler in the crowd yelled out that the marriage is “unlawful in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ!”
Booker calmly asked for the man to be removed, and security complied. The heckler continued yelling as he was escorted out of the courthouse. After the drama had subsided, Booker continued the ceremony.
“And not hearing any substantive, worthy objections, I will now proceed with the vows,” Booker said, according to Advocate.
Bell and his new husband both felt as if the new law and Booker’s reaction represented an important shift in society.
“We’re in our sixties, which means we’ve seen tremendous history of monumental change. This is one of those monumental events, that I can be here today and say I’m married to another man,” Bell told the AP.
Booker had previously refused to officiate wedding cermemonies because marriage was not equal throughout the state.