Booker on Way to U.S. Senate Puts Gays Among N.J. Legal Spouses

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Newark Mayor Cory Booker, elected to the U.S. Senate last week, officiated at the wedding of two men on the first day of legal same-sex marriage in New Jersey.

The 44-year-old Democrat had declined to perform heterosexual marriages during his almost eight years as mayor of New Jersey’s largest city because gays were barred from the rites. Booker was elected to the U.S. Senate on Oct. 16 to replace Democrat Frank Lautenberg, who died in June at 89.

The New Jersey Supreme Court on Oct. 18 declined to postpone the ceremonies, allowing the state to become the 14th in the U.S. to recognize the unions.

Joseph Penessidi, 65, a retired advertising executive, and Orville Bell, 65, a youth educator, were the first of nine couples -- seven same-sex and two heterosexual -- whom Booker wed. Booker called his role “one of the greatest privileges of my life.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Elise Young in Trenton at eyoung30@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net