(Reuters) – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dropped his legal opposition to same-sex marriage on Monday, making his state the 14th to legalize gay marriage but angering social conservatives who might be crucial to his presidential ambitions in 2016.
Proponents of gay marriage celebrated the end of their 11-year campaign and opponents criticized Christie for his reversal, saying he risked losing the Republican Party presidential primary, which tend to be strongly influenced by conservatives.
A unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court decision on Friday paved the way for legal gay marriages to go ahead. The court denied the governor’s attempt to put them on hold while an appeal was heard. Deciding that fighting the law was futile, Christie withdrew the state’s appeal on Monday morning.
“He’s definitely guaranteed losing the Republican primary,” predicted Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, a nonprofit political group established in 2007 to campaign against the legalization of gay marriage. “When the going gets tough, throw in the towel? That is not what a leader does.”
New Jersey municipalities began accepting applications for marriage licenses for same-sex couples on Friday, and mayors around the state began officiating at weddings just after midnight on Monday.
About nine hours later, Christie dropped the appeal that could have left those newlyweds in limbo.