A supporter awaits the New Jersey Supreme court decision on same-sex marriage in front of the Supreme court building October 25, 2006 in Trenton, New Jersey.
New Jersey state senators engaged in a passionate debate Thursday over whether to legalize gay marriage -- in the end it was defeated 20-14.
The preceding debate, which was in some ways a win in and of itself, was passionate.
"We should not be telling one couple you can be married and another couple you can be civil unionized," said Sen. Bill Baroni, the only Republican senator who has supported gay marriage. "We are better than that. History is watching us now. She is asking us whether we'll side with equality and right — or for discrimination," he added.
But Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R Bergen) referring to possibility of polygamists pushing for their "rights" said "Where does it end?"
He added, "There are many who believe this will change our entire culture."
Senate President Dick Codey (D-Essex) compared the push for marriage equality to the civil rights movement and women gaining the right to vote. "What do you have be frightened about?," he asked. "How is it going to change your lives?"
Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), a cosponsor of the bill, opined, "I think the average New Jerseyan is more worried about the Giants making the playoffs than same sex marriage."
But Sen. Sean Kean (R-Monmouth), whose district includes Asbury Park said, "Someone told me I have the gayest district in my state But [for many cultural and religious reasons] I'm gonna be voting no."
Sen. John Girgenti (D-Passaic) "in today's world it seems nothing is sacred anymore.'. Voting No
Sen Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) countered, "it's about basic human fairness. It's about doing morally the right thing to do."
Other cosponsor Ray Lesniak (D-Union) said, "its not often we have a chance to change society," and voted yes.
Despite the loss, just getting it to a vote on the floor was a something of a coup for gay rights advocates who faced the promise of a veto by Gov.-elect Chris Christie if the bill had passed. Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine had said he would sign the bill. Christie takes office Jan. 19.
Gay marriage advocates say they will now take their fight back to the New Jersey Supreme Court. It was a ruling by the high court three years ago that started this ball rolling, when it ordered the legislature to give gay and lesbian couples equal marriage rights.
That decision resulted in passage of a civil union law, one step short of marriage. New York-based Lambda Legal says it will argue that the civil union law doesn't work.
Only five states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont — recognize gay marriage.
To see the entire roll call on the vote, click here.