By Mark Abrams

TRENTON, NJ (CBS) – The New Jersey Assembly, Thursday, passed a same-sex marriage bill, sending it to Governor Christie’s desk, where it is facing a promised veto.

The vote came after hours of debate and passionate speeches delivered by supporters of the measure.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, made an impassioned plea for her colleagues to pass the bill, comparing the measure to civil rights legislation, “We cannot single out any one group of people and deem them to people undeserving of the same legal protections that everyone else has.”

But Republican Assemblywoman Alison McHose called it a distraction from the problems of joblessness and taxes many Garden State residents are facing. “Clearly, the majority party and their leadership’s number one priority are not the issues that a vast number of New Jerseyans have to face and struggle with on a daily basis.”

The final count: “Forty-one votes in the affirmative, 33 votes in the negative and zero abstentions, I declare the bill passed. Let the bill take the usual course of passed bills.”

Primary sponsor, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, said, “The institution of marriage will not suffer by our action today. We’ll instead re-enforce the promise extended by our founding fathers that all persons are free and independent.”

Gov. Chris Christie has been urging lawmakers to put the issue up for a voter referendum.

Democratic leaders oppose that idea. But they also don’t have the votes now to override the veto.