Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday that he was dropping the fight against same-sex marriage in New Jersey by withdrawing his his appeal of a major case that was being heard by the state Supreme Court, the Religion News Service reports. Starting one minute after midnight, gay couples have been getting married after the Supreme Court refused on Friday to delay the first weddings while it heard Christie's appeal of a lower-court ruling that legalized gay marriage last month. Christie said the court, in rejecting his plea for a stay, had made strong statements that settled the larger case. Colin Reed, a spokesman for Christie, said that Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, writing for the court in a 7-0 opinion last Friday, "left no ambiguity about the unanimous court's view on the ultimate decision in this matter when he wrote, 'same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today.'" But at the same time, Christie sharply criticized the court for stepping in and ruling on the case. The Republican governor, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has maintained that he wanted voters to take up the issue on the ballot. "Although the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law," Reed said. "The governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court." It is the first state court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June. The move extended hundreds of tax, medical and other legal benefits to same-sex couples, but only in states that provided them "lawful marriages." As a civil union state, New Jersey was left out, the Supreme Court ruled Friday.