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The New Jersey Assembly is expected to pass the marriage equality bill when it votes Thursday, but a promised veto from Gov. Chris Christie leaves the fate of the legislation uncertain.
In a historic vote, the Assembly is expected to approve the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act for the first time. The session begins at 1 p.m. Listen live to the proceedings here.
The Senate passed the bill for the first time ever on Tuesday in a bipartisan 24-16 vote. Two Republicans supported the bill. The bill failed in a 20-14 vote in the Senate in 2010.
During a news conference Tuesday, Governor Christie vowed "very swift action" to veto the bill if it reaches his desk. The Republican governor, widely considered a vice-presidential prospect, prefers the current civil unions law and wants the Democratic-controlled legislature to send marriage equality for voters' consideration in a referendum this fall. A recent poll shows that a majority of voters support same-sex marriage and want to have a vote on the issue.
Legislative leaders have strongly opposed the referendum suggestion, saying that civil rights should not be put to a vote. They have engaged in an escalating war of words with the governor since Christie suggested last month that civil rights leaders in the South "would have been happy" to have a referendum in the 1950s and '60s.
Should Christie reject the legislation as promised, lawmakers could attempt to override his veto, but it remains unclear whether they can muster enough Republican support to bypass the governor with two-thirds majorities in each chamber. The Associated Press/NBC New York reports that Assembly Republican leader Jon Bramnick said his 32 members can vote whoever they want on same-sex marriage, but he believes that most of his caucus wants to put the question to a public vote.
Marriage equality advocates, who also have a lawsuit moving through state court, note that the current legislative session ends in January 2014, giving them ample time to prepare and attempt a veto override.