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New Jersey gay-marriage bill advances; Chris Christie vows veto

January 24, 2012 |  2:12 pm

Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey said they have enough votes to pass a gay-marriage bill and advanced the measure Tuesday, despite the governor's pledge to veto it. 

Republican Gov. Chris Christie has called on the Legislature to instead put the issue before state voters in the fall.

“This issue that our state is exploring -- whether or not to redefine hundreds of years of societal and religious traditions -- should not be decided by 121 people in the Statehouse in Trenton,” Christie told an audience in Bridgewater, N.J., on  Tuesday. “Let’s let the people of New Jersey decide what is right for the state.”

Dozens of New Jersey residents  packed a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday, expressing both strong support and opposition for the measure, known as S1 because it was the first bill introduced in the current legislative session.

The committee advanced the bill after an 8-4 vote along party lines. 

The full Legislature hopes to schedule a hearing and vote soon on the matter, a staffer told The Times.

The Newark Star-Ledger reported that about 350 supporters of same-sex marriage, including Democratic State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, one of the Senate bill’s sponsors, rallied outside the New Jersey Statehouse before the committee hearing. 

One speaker Tuesday questioned whether the social issue should be a legislative priority in this session when the state is still grappling with economic issues. 

Washington state is also moving ahead on a gay-marriage bill that lawmakers said Monday has enough votes to pass. 

Earlier this month, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire announced that she would introduce same-sex  marriage legislation, saying: "It's time, it's the right thing to do."

Same-sex marriage is already legal in six states -- New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- and the District of Columbia.


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Photo: New Jersey state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, co-sponsor of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, listens Tuesday to a speaker during a hearing at the Statehouse in Trenton. Credit: Mel Evans/Associated Press