Same-sex marriage opponents have called for a referendum on equal marriage in the US state of New Jersey, praising Governor Chris Christie for his persistence in appealing against a judge who ruled to say that banning equal marriage in the state was unconstitutional.

Judge Mary Jacobson on Friday ruled 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. She said same-sex marriages should take place from 21 October.

The administration of Governor Chris Christie has appealed the decision at the state Supreme Court, also asking Judge Jacobson to place a stay on equal marriage until the court rules.

At a news conference at the State House, equal marriage opponents rejected the assertion that equal marriage was a civil right, and questioned whether same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and incest.

Donald Sico, the New Jersey spokesman for the National Organization for Marriage, which is known for its anti-gay stance, said: “Our position is that the good people of New Jersey be trusted with this decision… Let’s have a conversation, a dialogue, a debate.”

“We are appreciative and grateful to the Governor and the attorney general for waging a vigorous defence,” Sico continued.

Also speaking at the event was Jim White, of the New Jersey Knights of Columbus. He said: “If same sex marriage should become legal, other groups currently barred from marriage will demand that they be able to marry,

“There will inevitably be demands for legalization of polygamy – we’ve already seen this in Canada – polyandry, group marriage, marriage even between siblings.”

Advocates of equal marriage, rejected those arguments, however, and went further to reject the assertion that civil unions provide equal rights.

“I have maintained that civil unions are discriminatory, separate, but equal alternatives that have no place in our society,” Assemblyman Tim Eustace said last week. He is one of two openly gay members of the legislature.

Governor Chris Christie, although being a staunch opponent to equal marriage, has said he supports civil unions.

Reverend Dr Clenard H Childress said: “As an African American clergyman, it’s also alarming to me that you would call sexual orientation a civil right. Civil rights are birth rights.” Sexuality “is something that parents’ decisions and verbiage and education and knowledge will definitely play a vital role.”

Former cast-member of the popular Jersey Shore television series JWoww yesterday called the Governor “retarded” for continuing to fight against equal marriage in the state. She later apologised for her use of the word, but stood by her opinion of him.

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.

Christie 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.

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