The New Jersey Assembly on Thursday approved a bill that would make New Jersey the eighth state to legalize gay marriage.

Members voted 42 to 33 on the measure after a roughly 3-hour debate.

The debate was opened by the bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who rejected Governor Chris Christie's call to put the issue up for a popular vote, saying “it's just the wrong thing to do.”

“This is all about whether you will allow two people to love one another in the privacy of their own home,” Gusciora, who is openly gay, told colleagues.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver also urged colleagues to vote in favor of the bill.

“This is clearly a constitutional issue of equal access under the law,” she said.

A motion to send the bill back to committee failed but received a loud round of applause from opponents sitting in the gallery.

The vote comes just days after the Senate approved the measure by a wider margin than expected.

Supporters cheered as the final tally was displayed on the chamber's large LED screen.

But the cheering from supporters is expected to end soon, because neither chamber has sufficient support to override Christie's promised “swift” veto.

During a Tuesday news conference, Christie called the Legislature's actions an “act of theater on their part because they know it's not going to happen.”

However, Christie is not expected to have the last word. Democratic leaders have nearly two years to override the governor's veto. Based on this week's votes, supporters remain 3 votes shy of that goal in the Senate and 12 votes in the Assembly.

New Jersey currently recognizes gay and lesbian couples with civil unions, which Christie has said he supports.

Lawmakers enacted civil unions in 2006 after the state's Supreme Court unanimously agreed that it is unconstitutional to deny gay and lesbian couples the rights granted to married heterosexual couples and ordered the Legislature to remedy the situation.

Marriage supporters, who say civil unions are flawed and that separate is never equal, have returned to court to argue their case.

“If @GovChristie thinks marriage veto will put the issue to rest, he hasn't met our clients,” legal group Lambda Legal tweeted on Thursday. “We aren't going away.”