NJ Senate Plans to Vote on Gay Marriage This Week

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Gay marriage advocates in New Jersey are preparing for a last-ditch attempt to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. State Senate President Dick Codey has scheduled a vote on the measure for Thursday, just three days before the end of the legislative session.

Codey says the people of New Jersey "deserve the right to a formal debate on the Senate floor."

If the marriage equality bill passes the Senate, it must then make it through the Assembly by Monday, before heading to Gov. Corzine's desk for his signature. Corzine's successor, Chris Christie, who takes office January 19, has repeatedly vowed to veto the bill.

But some advocates remain optimistic. Leslie Gabel-Brett, with the New Jersey chapter of Lambda Legal, a gay and lesbian civil rights group, says she believes the Senate will pass the bill. "This is a matter of equality under the law. It's a civil matter about law. It doesn't dictate to any particular religion what they can or must do or teach," Gabel-Brett says.

A Senate vote was canceled last month because it appeared the measure was going to fail. It requires support from 21 of the Senate's 40 members. Democrats hold 23 seats, but four have said they oppose the measure. One Republican is on record supporting it.

Gay marriage is legal in Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont. New Jersey recognizes same-sex civil unions, but advocates of gay marriage say this is inadequate.

There are 40 states that have specific laws banning same-sex marriage.