Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney are among the Democrats criticizing Governor Chris Christie's call to let voters decide on gay marriage.

Christie made his remarks as a bill that would make New Jersey the seventh state to legalize gay marriage cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee with an 8 to 4 vote.

Christie broke weeks of silence on the issue on Tuesday, calling on lawmakers to put the question before voters and vowed to veto the measure if it reached his desk.

“Let the people of New Jersey decide what is right for the state,” he said.

(Related: NOM cheers Chris Christie's decision to veto New Jersey gay marriage bill.)

“I shudder to think what would have happened if the civil rights gains, heroically established by courageous lawmakers in the 1960s, were instead conveniently left up to popular votes in our 50 states,” Booker said in a statement.

“Equal protection under the law – for race, religion, gender or sexual orientation – should not be subject to the most popular sentiments of the day. Marriage equality is not a choice. It is a legal right. I hope our leaders in Trenton will affirm and defend it.”

Booker earlier appeared in a video for the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) Americans for Marriage Equality campaign.

“We vote on issues here, we don't put civil rights on the ballot,” Sweeney said during a press conference in response to Christie.

When a reporter suggested that lawmakers were wasting their time debating a bill that the governor has pledged to veto, Sweeney responded: “The point of going through a fight for civil rights, are you kidding me? For standing up for people to give them the same rights? I'm offended by that.”

“[I]f the governor wants to stifle and silence his colleagues that's one thing, but he's not going to stifle or silence us. Someone has to stand up for equality and fairness.” (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)