The state Senate vote on gay marriage in New Jersey has been cancelled.

Democrat sponsors Raymond J Lesniak and Loretta Weinberg reportedly withdrew the bill from today’s agenda because it was headed for defeat.

They denied this, saying they wanted to strengthen support. Weinberg said it would be “fairest” to give residents more time to give their views on it.

It will now be debated in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, where support for gay marriage is said to be stronger. A date has not yet been scheduled.

Supporters hope the bill can return to the Senate for a vote before this legislative session ends. Governor-elect Chris Christie takes over in late January, and has made his opposition to gay marriage clear.

As yet, only 13 Senators have publicly said they support the bill. Eighteen have said they are against it, while the other nine have not stated their positions or are undecided.

The state currently offers civil unions but if passed, this bill would make New Jersey the sixth US state where gay marriage is legal.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa and Vermont give gay couples the right to marry.