Last night at 10:06 p.m., the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in a 7 to 6 vote. The Star-Ledger reports vote came "after more than seven hours of emotional debate and testimony"—over 1,000 people packed the Statehouse room—and was welcomed by cheers. The debate was apparently mostly civil:

During the marathon hearing, opponents — including Orthodox Jews and Catholic officials — argued that same-sex marriage would damage religious freedom and is not needed because the state already permits civil unions. Supporters -- including civil rights leaders and legal experts -- said gay couples do not have equal rights without being allowed to marry.

"Like race, our sexuality isn’t a preference," said Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who traveled from Washington, D.C., to testify. "It’s immutable, unchangeable and the Constitution protects us all from discrimination."

Josh Pruzanzsky, executive director of the Agudath of Israel of New Jersey, said same-sex marriage legislation "would endanger religious freedom, inhibit free speech and undermine the preferred status of marriage. It would convey a social message that is deeply offensive to many residents of the state of New Jersey and lead to further erosions in the traditional conception of family."


The full NJ Senate may vote on the bill as soon as Thursday, though it's not clear whether there's enough support for it to pass. But one Assemblyman told the NY Times over the weekend, "New York is two different states, New York City and upstate New York. We’re still the progressive suburbs of Philadelphia and New York City. I believe we’re a more progressive state."