Democrats in the New Jersey Legislature have launched a bid to override Governor Chris Christie's veto of gay marriage. Between the Assembly and Senate, an additional 15 votes are needed for a successful override.

At a press conference in Westfield, Senate President Stephen Sweeney called on Republican lawmakers to support an override of Governor Christie's veto of gay marriage. (Townsquare Media)

At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Senate Democrats and gay marriage advocates urged Republican lawmakers to "vote their conscience" and help with the override attempt, now that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and granted more than 1,000 federal benefits to same-sex married couples.

"People are being denied their rights over a simple word," said Senate President Stephen Sweeney.

New Jersey has recognized civil unions since 2006.

Sweeney has accused Christie and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. of disallowing their party members from voting the way they'd like. He noted that Republican legislators have privately said they would be willing to change their votes.

"Legislators should vote their conscience on every issue," Kean responded. "Republicans and Democrats from both houses of the legislature believe that this issue should be put before the voters of New Jersey this November. Senator Sweeney is exhibiting a complete lack of faith in the people to offer a permanent solution, one outside the whims and politics of future courts and legislatures."

Sweeney and fellow Democrats have said that civil rights issues should not go up to a public vote.

Governor Christie blasted Sweeney for his comments, saying he has no right to talk about "conscience" when he abstained on a gay marriage vote in 2009.

"Now, all of a sudden, he's the champion of gay marriage. He makes me laugh," Christie said.

Sweeney said an override attempt will not occur until advocates give the green light.