A bill to legalize gay marriage in New Jersey was left in limbo this week when the state Assembly speaker tossed it back to the Senate on Thursday, while supporters and opponents watch time run out for it to become law.
Speaker Joseph Roberts said he would call a vote on the measure only if the Senate approved the bill first, according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
Roberts’ move came three weeks after the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the measure. Instead of setting a Senate vote, leaders there then called upon the Assembly judiciary committee to debate the issue.
“After more than seven hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 7 and continued public debate in the weeks since, we’ve certainly had a chance to hear all sides on marriage equality legislation,” said Roberts.
“I am prepared to bring the bill directly to the Assembly floor for a vote before the end of this legislative session,” he said, provided the bill is passed by the Senate first.
The bill’s sponsors in the upper house, Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Sen. Raymond Lesniak, said they asked Senate President Richard Codey to hold a vote on January 7.
Gay-rights advocates had hoped to push the bill through this session, which ends January 12, because Gov. Corzine supports it. Gov.-elect Chris Christie, who will take office Jan. 19, has said he would veto such a measure.
New Jersey approved civil unions for gay couples three years ago, but critics of civil unions say gay couples have not received the same protections offered by marriages.
Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire have legalized same-sex marriage; just weeks ago the District of Columbia approved a gay marriage bill, which is currently in its congressional review period.