A New Jersey Superior Court judge struck down the state ban on same-sex marriage on Friday, ruling that LGBT couples must be granted marriage licenses starting on Oct. 21.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported that Judge Mary Jacobson argued the state's law allowing civil unions denied married same-sex couples federal benefits, citing the Supreme Court's June 2013 ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.
"The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts," Jacobson wrote in her decision.
While a spokesperson for Gov. Chris Christie (R) -- a vocal opponent of marriage equality -- did not comment on the ruling to the Star-Ledger, Christie's administration is expected to challenge Jacobson's decision. Meanwhile, advocacy groups celebrated what they described as a great day for the state.
"Today's decision leaves no doubt that only the freedom to marry provides the equality that same-sex families deserve," said Udi Ofer, executive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a statement. "We encourage the state to respect the court's decision and to not further prolong the inequality suffered by New Jersey families."
State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D) also supported the verdict, telling the Star-Ledger she hoped Christie would not file an appeal.
"Justice has already been denied for far too long," Oliver said to the Star-Ledger. "Let's clear the way for equal rights for all families."
Update, 5:05 p.m. EST: The Associated Press confirmed that Christie will appeal the ruling. A spokesman for his administration told the AP that Christie "will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination."
[Image: "Happy Same-sex Newlyweds Kissing In The Woods" via Shutterstock]