At least one New Jersey town began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples Thursday to comply with a court order to allow same-sex marriages starting Monday.

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Asbury Park's action touched off conflicting legal advice for towns.

The Star-Ledger reported that the state Health Department sent emails to municipal clerks Thursday telling them not to issue any licenses until after the state Supreme Court rules on whether the nuptials will be recognized next week.

Meanwhile, the gay rights legal group Lambda Legal said towns should issue licenses so couples can start getting married at 12:01 a.m. Monday. Under state law, there's a 72-hour waiting period for marriage licenses.

A state judge ruled last month that the state had to recognize gay marriage starting Monday, but the administration of Gov. Chris Christie appealed.

The Supreme Court said it will hear oral arguments on the overall case in January. But it's expected to rule before Monday on whether marriages can begin then and continue until the larger question is settled.

New Jersey now recognizes civil unions for gay couples, offering them legal protections of marriage, but not the title.

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