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BREAKING NEWS: New Jersey Senate approves marriage equality bill, goes to Assembly on Thursday

TRENTON, N.J. – The Democratic-controlled New Jersey Senate voted 24-16 today to approve a marriage equality bill.

The bill will be debated on Thursday by the state Assembly, which is also expected to approve the measure.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie, though, has vowed to veto the bill and expressed his desire to see the issue put to a public vote. Critics say civil rights should never be put to a public vote.

It is not clear if the New Jersey Legislature has the two-thirds votes in both chambers to overturn the threatened veto.

The latest poll by Quinnipiac University showed that New Jersey voters approved marriage equality by a margin of 52% to 42%.

New Jersey legalized civil unions in 2007, and several attempts to approve same-sex marriage have faltered.

Also today, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire is signing into law a bill that legalizes marriage equality in that state. Washington becomes the seventh state to legalize marriage equality, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, along with the District of Columbia.

Maryland and Illinois are soon to debate same-sex marriage, and California residents are awaiting a final decision on Proposition 8 after the District Court and the Appeals Court found that the law is unconstitutional.