The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, has pledged up to $500,000 to derail a proposed marriage equality bill in New Jersey.

On Monday, Democrats, headed by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, unveiled the proposed legislation.

Sweeney said that he had made a mistake in opposing the legislation in 2010 and that Governor Chris Christie, who supports the state's civil unions law but has previously threatened to veto a marriage bill if it reaches his desk, could be persuaded to back the measure.

“The governor's a decent person, and I think we can work on educating him to the fact of what it means,” he said.

Sweeney also said the legislation was not about religion – “because there's exemptions for that” – but about civil rights.

NOM President Brian Brown told The Washington Times that his group was prepared to spend up to $500,000 to back state lawmakers who oppose the measure.

“The media is reporting that gay marriage is sure to pass through the Legislature, but we heard the same false story in 2009 and 2010. The people of New Jersey can and will stop this bill,” Brown said.

New Jersey is the third state behind Maryland and Washington to announce the introduction of a gay marriage bill during the upcoming 2012 legislative session.