By David Madden and Cleve Bryan

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — A New Jersey judge has ruled that gay couples must be given the right to marry in the state.

Trenton Superior Court  judge Mary Jacobson, in a 53-page opinion, ruled that civil unions are no longer enough.

The federal government is now granting benefits to gay couples who are married (see related story), setting up an unequal situation in New Jersey.

“The judge decided that every citizen of New Jersey, regardless of sexual orientation, deserves the dignity of marriage,” says Troy Stevenson, head of Garden State Equality, which brought the suit.  “And as this decision holds right now, marriage licenses will be issued as of October 21st.”

The press secretary of Governor Chris Christie released the following statement Friday:

“Governor Christie has always maintained that he would abide by the will of the voters on the issue of marriage equality and called for it to be on the ballot this Election Day. Since the legislature refused to allow the people to decide expeditiously, we will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination.”

In today’s ruling, the judge accepted the position of lawyers from gay rights groups that the state is blocking citizens from receiving federal benefits.

New Jersey’s top court ruled in 2006 that gay couples must be given the same legal rights as married couples. Same-sex couples in New Jersey can currently enter into civil unions only, not marriages.

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