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New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie made good Friday on his promise to veto a marriage equality bill, possibly sending the legislation to its death.
One day after the Garden State's Assembly passed same-sex marriage legislation and four days after the state Senate did, Christie stamped a big no on the bill. He had promised to try to kill the legislation, saying the state's residents should vote on the issue.
"I think this is not an issue that should rest solely in my hands, or the hands of the Senate President or the Speaker or the other 118 members of the Legislature," said the governor, according to the Star-Ledger newspaper. "Let's let the people of New Jersey decide what is right for the state."
Reaction from LGBT leaders was swift.
"Today, Governor Christie abandoned a majority of New Jersey voters, as well as the officials elected to represent them, who believe that every committed couple should be able to marry the person they love," Mike Thompson, acting president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said in a press release. "As public support for marriage equality continues to grow, however, we are hopeful that the state legislature will continue its work to provide loving gay and lesbian couples with the vital protections that only marriage can afford."
A recent poll shows that a majority of New Jersey residents, 52%, support marriage equality.
Lawmakers could attempt to override Christie's veto, but it remains unclear whether they can muster enough Republican support to bypass the governor with two-thirds majorities in each chamber. Based on the vote tallies this week, another three votes would be needed to reach the threshold of 27 in the 40-member Senate, and 12 votes would be needed to reach the threshold of 54 in the 80-member Assembly.
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. A statement from Garden State Equality, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, said that "the legislature has brought us to the edge of the promised land" by passing the marriage equality bill.
"We are exuberant advocates but also methodical strategists," said the group's chairman, Steven Goldstein. "To win an override, we will take the time we need, assisted by a changing world. Look how the world changed since the last vote two years ago. We have until the end of the legislative session, January 2014. The key is winning."