Two of New Jersey's most influential black leaders are blasting Gov. Chris Christie for wanting to put gay marriage up for a popular vote.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Newark Mayor Cory Booker say civil rights are guaranteed by the constitution and don't belong at the ballot box.

The Republican governor wants gay marriage decided by residents, not legislators. At a news conference Tuesday in Bridgewater, Christie said people would have been happier having a referendum on civil rights than dying in the streets of the South.

Oliver says such a referendum in the 1960s would not have brought equal rights to minorities. And Booker says he wouldn't have had the chance to become a mayor.

The governor, who opposes same-sex unions, says he'll veto a gay marriage bill.

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