New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled Friday that the state must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are six gay couples and their children who argue that the state's civil unions law fails to satisfy a 2006 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling declaring that gay couples are entitled to the same rights and benefits that married heterosexual couples enjoy.

The AP reported that Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who last year vetoed a bill approved by lawmakers which sought to legalize gay marriage, said through a spokesman that he plans to appeal the decision.

Jacobson made her ruling effective October 21. That is, the Christie administration has enough time to file its appeal and block implementation of the order.

As a result of the Supreme Court's decision in June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government now recognizes the marriages of gay couples for the purpose of benefits.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the New Jersey case said that the DOMA ruling “made clear that those who are not married, including those consigned instead to civil unions, are not entitled to the federal rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities that the Windsor decision extends to those who are married.”

Jacobson agreed, saying that civil unions exclude gay couples “from certain federal benefits that legally married same-sex couples are able to enjoy.”

Lawyers representing the state argued that it was not New Jersey denying the couples benefits but the federal government by not recognizing civil unions.

The issue is also being played out in the Legislature, where activists are lobbying for a vote to override Christie's veto.

“Today’s court decision affirms what loving and committed couples in New Jersey have known all along: civil union is no substitute for the protections and dignity of marriage,” Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said in an emailed statement. “Every day of denial in New Jersey is an emotional and tangible burden on same-sex couples and their families. Now that civil union has been proven unconstitutional in the court of law, it's the time for the legislature to act quickly. As a lead partner of NJ United for Marriage, Freedom to Marry is working hard to secure the votes needed to override Governor Christie’s veto on New Jersey’s freedom to marry legislation so that the long wait ends for committed couples in the Garden State.”