New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Friday vetoed a bill that would allow same-sex couples to wed, setting up a confrontation with a Democrat-controlled legislature that has vowed to eventually get the bill into law.
The General Assembly on Thursday passed the measure, which the Senate had approved Monday.
Lawmakers have until the legislative session ends in January 2014 to override Christie's veto. They would need a two-thirds majority in both houses to succeed.
Christie, the subject of speculation as a possible GOP vice presidential candidate, has said the issue "should not be decided by 121 people in the statehouse in Trenton."
He has advocated putting the issue to a referendum.
"I continue to encourage the Legislature to trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly significant societal change," Christie said in a statement. "I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples, as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits."
Recent polling, meanwhile, suggests that New Jersey voters are slightly in favor of legalizing such marriages.
Fifty-two percent of state voters approve the measure, the first time the figures have crossed the 50% threshold, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll.
The study includes a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.
Gay rights groups, which had expected the governor's veto, have pledged to override it.