A gay marriage bill in New Jersey cleared the Senate on Monday, but failed to attract the needed support to override a promised veto from Governor Chris Christie.

The measure's 24-to-16 vote, however, was greater than expected by supporters. Two Republicans joined all but 2 Democrats in passing the bill.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat who recently called his 2010 vote against marriage equality “wrong,” called on Republican colleagues to vote their conscience on the measure and disregard Christie's call for a public referendum on the issue.

“When marriage equality was enacted in New York and more recently in Washington state, could not have been done so without the support of courageous Republicans, who bucked their party bosses because they knew they had to do the right thing.”

“Now is your moment. Now is the time to stand up and say yes,” Sweeney said.

Despite coming in three votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto, the measure gained 10 supporters since a January 2010 vote.

In recent weeks, Christie has been criticized by Democrats for calling on lawmakers to put the question up for a vote. Gay marriage supporters argued that civil rights should never be voted on.

The Assembly will vote Thursday on the measure. Supporters have said they have sufficient support to clear the chamber.

(Related: Washington becomes seventh state to legalize gay marriage.)