The battle over gay rights will move to New Jersey and the federal government, advocates said, after Tuesday's narrow rejection of same-sex marriage by Maine voters in a hard-fought contest.
The Democrat-controlled legislature in New Jersey, which currently recognizes same-sex couples in civil unions, is under pressure to pass a bill authorizing gay marriage before Gov. Jon Corzine ends his term in mid-January.
Corzine, a Democrat unseated in Tuesday's election, said he would sign such a bill. His successor, Republican Chris Christie, opposes same-sex marriages.
"New Jersey is at the very top of our list, and it's going to happen in the next few weeks if it happens at all," said Maggie Gallagher, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriages. "They're doing it in a lame duck, because it's as far away from an election as possible."
Gay-marriage advocates have resisted "civil union" licenses, saying the separate term is demeaning and the status isn't honored by many employers.
Some gay-rights advocates said, their priorities have shifted away from the ballot box and toward nonmarital issues.