ASBURY PARK, N.J. (BP)–Officials in Asbury Park, N.J., voted to stop issuing marriage license to same-sex couples March 10, a day after the state’s attorney general threatened criminal charges if they continued.
With the city’s action, Oregon and California are the only two states where officials continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. City or county officials in New York and New Mexico have defied state law in recent weeks, as Asbury Park did, only to have their respective attorney general declare the actions invalid.
Asbury Park issued marriage licenses to two homosexual men March 8, but Attorney General Peter C. Harvey sent city officials a letter urging them to stop their actions or face “potential criminal prosecution,” the Associated Press reported. Harvey said same-sex “marriage” is not legal in New Jersey.
Asbury Park officials voted unanimously to stop the issuance of licenses, saying they would seek the opinion of a state judge on the legality of the licenses.
“While I understand and respect that it is Mr. Harvey’s responsibility to enforce the law, at this point Mr. Harvey’s position is an interpretation of the law,” city manager Terence J. Reidy said in a statement. “It is not law.”
Reidy further said he is “concerned” by the threat of criminal prosecution against “public servants acting in good faith and within their interpretation of the law to serve their community.”
“Mr. Harvey could seek a civil court injunction that would serve the same purpose and not place the lives and careers of dedicated city employees in jeopardy,” Reidy said.
In a statement March 9, Harvey pointed to previous court rulings against same-sex “marriage,” including one last November by Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg, who threw out a case of seven homosexual couples seeking same-sex “marriage” legalization. It is being appealed.
“The right to marry has always been understood in law and tradition to apply only to couples of different genders,” Feinberg wrote. “A change in that basic understanding would not lift a restriction on the right, but would work a fundamental transformation of marriage into an arrangement that could never have been within the intent of the Framers of the 1947 [New Jersey] Constitution.
“Significantly, such a change would contradict the established and universally accepted legal precept that marriage is the union of people of different genders.”
Harvey sent his letter to officials in Asbury Park as well as other New Jersey cities.
“We are urging all municipal officials to comply with the law as it exists,” Harvey said in his March 9 statement. “… We hope that municipal officials will comply with the law as it exists. If not, this matter will have to be resolved by the court.”
The action by Harvey drew praise from pro-family groups, who called on attorney generals in other states to follow his action. Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers has yet to issue an opinion on the same-sex “marriages” performed in Multnomah County, where Portland sits.
In addition, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has refused to threaten San Francisco official with criminal charges, even though state law explicitly prohibits same-sex “marriages.” He has said, though, he will defend the law in court. The city began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Feb. 12.
“The more law enforcement officials crack down on these unlawful certificates of marriage, the more people realize that Bill Lockyer is fiddling around while Rome burns,” Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families, said in a statement. “Every day that so-called homosexual ‘marriages’ continue in blatant violation of the law, the people of California know that Bill Lockyer is to blame for not stopping this ridiculousness.”
In Oregon, the top attorney for the Oregon legislature issued an opinion March 8 saying that same-sex “marriages” were legal under the state constitution, The Oregonian reported. The opinion is not binding on counties, although it did add to the statewide controversy.
Pro-family groups in Oregon are beginning a petition drive in hopes of placing a state constitutional marriage amendment before voters this fall. They have launched a website — www.defenseofmarriagecoalition.org.
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