In N.J., rejoicing over same-sex marriage ruling

Steve Burch (left), 52, and Stephen Drayton, 57, of Collingswood, have been together for 14 years. "I definitely feel this is going to happen," Burch said of the gay marriage ruling.
Steve Burch (left), 52, and Stephen Drayton, 57, of Collingswood, have been together for 14 years. "I definitely feel this is going to happen," Burch said of the gay marriage ruling.
Posted: September 28, 2013

Manish and Jeff Mishra-Marzetti, a Cherry Hill couple, were in their Subaru on Friday afternoon, driving to visit friends in Brooklyn and take adoptive son Jacen, 21/2, to a playdate when they heard the news:

A Superior Court judge had ruled same-sex marriage must be allowed in New Jersey.

"That's amazing, that's fabulous!" exclaimed Manish Mishra-Marzetti, 42, senior minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill. "What wonderful news!"

Like any parent, one of his first thoughts - once he could again think clearly - was of their child.

"For him to see this state treating us as a legally married couple," said the minister, who was joined with his partner in a civil union, "that would bring to my heart such joy."

Friday's decision found many joyous hearts as the gay and lesbian community and its supporters and advocates reveled in this new development in the battle for marriage equality.

The Christie administration, which holds that same-sex marriage should be decided by voters, did not take long to weigh in with a vow that the ruling would be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

But many still savored what they considered a victory.

"It is a quantum leap for gay rights in New Jersey today," said Jay Lassiter, a political consultant and advocate from Cherry Hill. "We will have marriage equality in New Jersey. You can take that to the bank. The haters can totally eat it. They can deal. We are winning."

Shortly before a Christie spokesman announced the intention to challenge the ruling, state Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver said she hoped the governor, who vetoed legislation that would have allowed gay marriage, "does the right thing" and does not appeal.

"Justice has already been denied for far too long," Oliver said.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national civil rights group working for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality, issued a statement that state officials should not appeal the decision.

"Civil unions are separate and unequal, particularly in light of this year's historic Supreme Court term," said group president Chad Griffin, referring to the federal high court's June ruling that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. "There are no rational arguments why couples in New Jersey should be relegated to second-class status."

Steve Burch, 52, of Collingswood, who works in customer service for a publishing firm, wasn't surprised Christie wanted to appeal. Nor was he discouraged.

"I think the fight will just pick up speed. Rights are rights. I definitely feel this is going to happen," said Burch, who has been with his partner, Stephen Drayton, 57, for 14 years.

He felt so strongly he said he was thinking he would put off booking the limousine they were going to rent to take them on Dec. 28 to be married in Delaware, which allows same-sex marriage.

"This changes everything," said Burch, who would prefer to be wed in his local church.

Meanwhile, Manish Mishra-Marzetti said he and his partner would transition from civil union status to marriage as soon as that becomes possible.

Civil unions and marriage are not the same, he has found. Recently, he had to speak to a medical office for his partner.

"The receptionist was asking, 'What's your relationship to the patient?' and 'What's a civil union?' It comes up all the time," he said.

The two are starting to adopt a second child. New Jersey recognizes them both as Jacen's parents.

Still, he said, "What a joy it would be for us to adopt as legally married parents."


rgiordano@phillynews.com

856-779-3893

@ritagiordano

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