The state senate in New Jersey has voted 24 to 16 in favour of giving equal marriage rights to gay couples.

The measure is now expected to be approved in the General Assembly later this week, but Governor Chris Christie has said he will veto the bill if it passes both houses in favour of a referendum.

In order to avoid veto by a governor, the successful bill must be passed by 27 state senators and 57 representatives in the General Assembly.

If Christie ignores a passed bill, it will become law automatically in 45 days, but the governor has said he believes the measure should go to a public ballot.

Bill supporters say a civil rights issue should not be decided by ballot.

Last week, Washington’s state legislature approved equal marriage rights for gay couples. That bill is expected to be signed by Washington state governor Christine Gregoire tonight.

In 2011, Governor Christie condemned a teacher who had been suspended for making homophobic remarks on Facebook

Viki Knox had called homosexuality “a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation” and a “sin” that “breeds like cancer”.

In an interview with PinkNews.co.uk earlier this year, Tabatha Coffey said she would do one of her signature ‘takeover’s if Christie vetoes legislation.

Coffey’s show Tabatha Takes Over, formerly Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, follows her around the US as she takes control of small businesses to transform their owners’ prospects.

She told interviewer Laurence Watts she would be prepared to do the same to Republican Governor Chris Christie if he blocks the legislation.