A New Jersey judge on Tuesday reinstated a federal equal protection claim previously dismissed in a lawsuit challenging the state's ban on gay marriage.

Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg's ruling broadens the scope of the case, allowing plaintiffs to argue that the state's civil unions law violates the New Jersey Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

“We are pleased that the New Jersey Superior Court will allow us to show how civil unions fail to provide to same-sex couples the equality promised by both the New Jersey Constitution and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” said Jon Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal, which is representing 7 gay couples. “Having both a state and federal equal protection claim will only make our case stronger. We look forward to presenting a complete record of the discrimination that New Jersey's same-sex couples and their children face because of their relegation to civil unions rather than marriage.”

The ruling comes just days after Governor Chris Christie vetoed a gay marriage bill approved by lawmakers.

The New Jersey Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that the state must recognize the relationships of gay and lesbian couples, but volleyed the question of marriage back to the Legislature. Lawmakers responded by enacting civil unions.