Advocates press for gay marriage bill in NJ before governor leaves office

New JerseyThe battle over gay rights moves to New Jersey and the federal government, advocates said, after Tuesday’s narrow rejection of same-sex marriage by Maine voters.

The Democrat-controlled legislature in New Jersey, which currently recognizes same-sex couples in civil unions, is under pressure to pass a bill authorizing gay marriage before Gov. Jon Corzine ends his term in mid-January.

Corzine has promised to sign the bill if it gets there. Governor-elect Chris Christie, however, has promised to veto the legislation if it arrives after he takes office on Jan. 19, 2010.

The state’s position on gay partnerships has been evolving over the last five years.

In 2004 New Jersey allowed gay and lesbian couples to enter into domestic partnerships, which included some of the benefits of marriage. In 2007 the state began allowing “civil unions” with the idea this provided all the benefits of marriage.

To date, more than 3,800 New Jersey couples have entered into a civil union.

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