Starting Monday, same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in New Jersey.
The New Jersey Supreme Court denied the state's request to temporarily prevent such marriages last week, clearing the way.
Some ceremonies already are planned. U.S. Sen.-elect Cory Booker, the current Newark mayor, plans to recognize the marriages of several same-sex couples at 12:01 a.m.
The couples will be married at City Hall, according to the Facebook page of gay rights group Garden State Equality.
Troy Stevenson, executive director of the group, said last week that the high court's decision means "the door is open for love, commitment and equality under the law."
"This is a huge victory for New Jersey's same-sex couples and their families," added Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director of gay rights group Lambda Legal and the organization's lead attorney on the case. "Take out the champagne glasses -- wedding bells will soon be ringing in New Jersey!"
That enthusiasm was not shared by everyone.
"It is extremely disappointing that the New Jersey Supreme Court has allowed the ruling of an activist judge to stand pending its appeal through the court system," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, last week. "All in all, today's ruling is another sad chapter in watching our courts usurp the rights of voters to determine issues like this for themselves."
Gov. Chris Christie's administration appealed -- and asked the court to delay -- a lower court's September 27 order that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry beginning October 21, rather than give them the label "civil union."
The appeal will be heard in January. But the state Supreme Court on Friday declined to delay the September order in the meantime, writing that "the state has not shown a reasonable probability that it will succeed on the merits" of the appeal.
"When a party presents a clear case of ongoing unequal treatment, and asks the court to vindicate constitutionally protected rights, a court may not sidestep its obligation to rule for an indefinite amount of time," the 20-page decision read. "Under those circumstances, courts do not have the option to defer."
New Jersey has recognized civil unions between same-sex couples since 2007, after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples all the rights and benefits of marriage. As far as state rights and benefits went, civil unions and marriages differed only in label.
New Jersey is one of four states that offer civil unions, but not marriage, to same-sex couples. The others are Colorado, Hawaii and Illinois.
Same-sex marriage is legal in 13 U.S states -- California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington -- as well as the District of Columbia.
Same-sex marriage is banned in every state not mentioned above, except for New Mexico, which has no laws banning or allowing it.