Bills that would legalize gay marriage were formally introduced Wednesday in New Jersey and Thursday in Washington state.

In New Jersey, the bills were given top priority and filed as the first of the session (S1 in the Senate and A1 in the Assembly).

Senate President Stephen Sweeney is listed as a primary sponsor of the legislation, along with Senators Raymond Lesniak and Loretta Weinberg. Lesniak and Weinberg sponsored a 2010 gay marriage bill that fizzled in the Senate. Sweeney said during a press conference to unveil the bill that he had “made a mistake” in not joining the previous effort.

Assembly members Reed Gusciora and Sheila Oliver are listed as the primary sponsors in the Assembly.

Supporters believe that they have the votes needed for the proposed legislation to clear both houses of the Legislature, but Governor Chris Christie, who supports the state's civil unions law, has previously threatened to veto a marriage bill if it reaches his desk.

Sweeney told reporters on Monday that Christie 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.

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

Similar legislation in Washington was expected to be filed on Thursday, a spokesman for the Washington State Legislature told On Top Magazine in an email.

According to the Daily Herald, a Senate committee had already scheduled a tentative January 23 hearing on the bill. The Senate Government Operations, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee is scheduled to hear the bill at 10AM.

An Associated Press tally shows the bill has attracted 21 out of the 25 votes needed to clear the Senate, with 7 Senators saying they remain undecided. The bill enjoys sufficient support to clear the House.

Governor Chris Gregoire, who previously signed bills expanding the state's current domestic partnership law, last week publicly endorsed marriage equality for the first time.

Lawmakers in Maryland are also expected to debate the issue.