Along party lines, the State Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey. The bill is now poised for a vote in the full Upper House next month.

Senate President Steve Sweeney co-sponsors the measure and says gay couples are being denied basic civil rights under the state's civil union law. Sweeney was the first to testify on his bill to allow gay couples to marry. A similar bill failed two years ago. Sweeney did not cast a vote the first time around.

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Today, Sweeney said, “This is legislation that recognizes civil rights, but doesn’t force any group a change in their beliefs or tenets……What we’re trying to accomplish is solely a matter of basic civil rights, nothing more and nothing less.”

Opponents of the legislation say marriage is only a union between one man and one woman.

Sweeney was the first to testify Tuesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a bill he's sponsoring to allow gay couples to marry. A similar bill failed two years ago.

Sweeney, a South Jersey Democrat who didn't vote last time, has had a change of heart and is now sponsoring the legislation. He said it's time for New Jersey to join six other states and 10 countries that sanction gay marriage.

Christie says he will look at the bill if it gains momentum.

The Associated Press contributed to this report