New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Monday nominated Chatham Borough Mayor Bruce A. Harris to the state Supreme Court, the Star-Ledger reported.

If approved, Harris would become the first openly gay person and the third African-American to serve on the state's highest court.

“Today, the governor has made civil rights history,” Steven Goldstein, CEO off Garden State Equality, the state's largest gay rights advocate, said in a statement. “I extend to him our most profound appreciation.”

The announcement comes as New Jersey lawmakers prepare to debate a bill that would make New Jersey the seventh state to legalize gay marriage.

Christie has previously said he would veto such a bill, if approved by lawmakers. But he's softened his stance a bit during recent interviews in which he has declined to say whether he planned to sign the legislation, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

Goldstein added that it would be “unwise” to read into Christie's nomination as a nod toward the marriage bill.

“[H]e has said in past months and years that he would veto the bill, and we take him at his word,” Goldstein said. “We will fight hard every minute of every day to win marriage equality in New Jersey.”