New Jersey’s Assembly on Friday sent legislation legalizing same-sex marriage to Gov. Chris Christie after lawmakers approved it in a vote on Thursday. Christie, a possible vice-presidential candidate, has promised a quick veto.
According to The Huff Post, the Republican governor who opposes gay marriage had promised “very swift action” if the bill passed both houses of the Legislature, but the Assembly isn’t required to send the bill to his desk until the close of business Friday.
The Senate approved the bill Monday.
The affirmative vote in the Assembly after more than two hours of debate ended weeks of speculation over whether Democrats who control the chamber would muster the 41 votes needed for the measure to pass.
Four of the Assembly’s 47 Democrats voted no, and a fifth was out of town and didn’t vote. No Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
The bill would need several Republican votes in each house to override the governor; Christie himself essentially guaranteed that that won’t happen, according to ABC.
The Senate passed the bill 24-16. In that chamber, two Republicans voted for the bill and two Democrats voted against it in what was otherwise a party-line vote.
Christie and most state Republican lawmakers want gay marriage put to a popular vote. Democrats say gay marriage is a civil right protected by the Constitution and not subject to referendum.
“Without question this is a historic day in the state of New Jersey,” Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said after the vote.
She said she had never been more proud of the Democratic caucus for doing “what citizens sent us here to do: to deliberate, to use the legislative process to represent the interests of all New Jerseyans.”
Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said: “Today, the Legislature has brought us to the promised land,” said Goldstein. “We know the governor won’t let us enter, but we finally behold the view of our dreams and we will never turn back.”
Last week, Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire signed her own state’s bill, making it the seventh state in the US to legalise same-sex marriages.
Six states and Washington, D.C. now recognize gay marriages. Washington State’s new gay marriage law is scheduled to take effect in June.
However, 30 states have adopted constitutional amendments aimed at preventing gay marriage, most by defining marriage as a union between man and woman.
Maryland is shaping up as the next battleground, with its House of Delegates pressing forward with what is likely to be a passionate debate over a same-sex marriage measure, says Reuters.
Lawmakers made little headway on Thursday other than adopting a single amendment to delay the effective date of the bill to January 2013 from October 2012.
It should become clearer on Friday whether proponents of the “Civil Marriage Protection Act” have the 71 votes needed to advance it to the state Senate, which passed similar legislation last year.
Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, a gay marriage supporter, has attempted to sway the black lawmakers, many of whom are hesitant to back an issue opposed by much of the state’s black clergy.
Dozens of clergy members and others were expected to show at the Statehouse on Friday in a last-minute lobbying effort.
A final House vote was not expected until next week.