A judge in the US state of New Jersey has ruled that the state should allow same-sex couples to marry.

Judge Mary Jacobson said that because the US federal government now recognises same-sex marriage, the state government in New Jersey would violate its constitution by not doing so.

It is not immediately clear when same-sex marriages could begin, or whether the state government will appeal to a higher level court.

Governor Chris Christie is opposed to equal marriage, and last year vetoed a bill which had passed. His administration is expected to appeal.

In the ruling on Friday, Judge Jacobson accepted the position of lawyers from gay rights groups that the state is effectively blocking the federal benefits of New Jersey citizens by not allowing same-sex marriage.

Back in 2006, New Jersey’s top court ruled that gay couples should have the same legal rights as married opposite sex couples. Same-sex couples can currently enter into civil unions in the state.

Two Republicans last week said that they will go against the wishes of Governor Chris Christie, and vote for an equal marriage measure when it comes to the state. 

The US Supreme Court in June struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and ruled that civil unions do not provide the same benefits as marriage.

The Governor of the US state of New Jersey in June said the opposite, and that the strike-down of DOMA “was wrong”.

Back in February, Democrats in the New Jersey legislature said they would attempt to override Governor Chris Christie’s equal marriage veto from last year, and have now agreed to put the question of marriage equality to voters in November, if they cannot override it.

When asked how he would react if another equal marriage bill came his way, Christie simply said: “I’ll veto it”.

Same-sex couples are also challenging the state’s ban on equal marriage, and a parallel track is going through court.

Alongside Pennsylvania, New Jersey was the only north east state where same-sex marriage is not legal.