Maryland advances gay marriage, New jersey vetoes it

Gay marriage

Republican Governor Chris Christie on Friday vetoed a bill to make New Jersey the latest U.S. state to legalize gay marriage, but hours later a similar measure advanced by a razor-thin margin in Maryland and appeared destined to become law.

Christie, a rising star in the U.S. Republican Party, accompanied his veto with a call for lawmakers in the state capital Trenton to appoint an advocate for same-sex couples under the state's existing civil union law.

The Democratic-controlled New Jersey legislature does not appear to have the votes to override Christie's veto.

In Maryland's capital Annapolis, the House of Delegates voted 72 to 67 to approve legislation to allow gay marriage, prompting cheers from a packed chamber gallery after two hours of often impassioned debate. The bill heads to the state Senate, which last year approved similar legislation and is widely expected to do so again.

Maryland Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley supports gay marriage and would sign the bill into law.

Today, the House of Delegates voted for dignity, O'Malley posted on Twitter. He later added in another tweet, Love is an inalienable right.

Seven of the 50 U.S. states have legalized gay marriage - New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa and Washington state, as did Washington, D.C. The gay marriage law in Washington state has not yet taken effect.

This week's dramatic battles in New Jersey and Maryland brought an even greater focus to the national debate over same-sex marriage.

Already a contentious social issue, gay marriage has gained more prominence ahead of the Nov. 6 U.S. presidential election, with advocates framing it as a civil rights issue and opponents saying marriage should be reserved for unions between a man and a woman.

Christie, a supporter of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney who is often mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate, has called for voters in New Jersey to decide the issue. No U.S. state has ever approved same-sex marriage in a referendum.

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