A New Jersey judge on Friday ruled that a lawsuit seeking to enact gay marriage in the state can proceed, The Star-Ledger reported.

The decision comes five years after the state Supreme Court ruled that the state must recognize the relationships of gay and lesbian couples, but volleyed the question of marriage back to the Legislature, which decided to enact civil unions.

Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg agreed that the seven gay couples suing for the right to marry should have an opportunity to prove that the state's civil unions law falls short of the legal protections offered to heterosexual married couples.

“I don't think that the court can remain silent and take no action if … the result is that those benefits are not equal in the protections,” said Feinberg.

Garden State Equality Chairman Steven Goldstein called the ruling “a sweet moment.”

“It is time for the state of New Jersey to end the evil experiment of civil unions that is failing same-sex couples,” he said.

The lawsuit was prompted by last year's failed effort to legalize gay marriage in the state and coupled with the election of Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who has promised to veto a gay marriage law if approved by lawmakers.

A date to hear the lawsuit was not set.