New Jersey Democratic leaders are criticizing proposed legislation to let voters decide the issue of marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.

Democratic Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, the state's first openly gay lawmaker, on Monday introduced a bill to put the issue up to a popular vote.

Gusciora told The Star-Ledger that last month's election results in support of marriage equality changed his mind on winning such rights at the ballot box.

“I am the last person who believes civil rights should be on the ballot, but civil rights delayed is civil rights denied,” Gusciora said. “The timing is right. There is a broader acceptance.”

In vetoing a marriage bill in February, Republican Governor Chris Christie called on Democrats who control the Legislature to go directly to the people.

“This is exactly what the governor wants,” Gusciora said.

Senator Raymond Lesniak, a co-sponsor of the marriage equality bill, called the proposal “dangerous.”

“Next year, there are two governors' races and that's it – in New Jersey and Virginia,” Lesniak told the paper. “There will be tens of millions of dollars coming in from right-wing groups … with all kinds of distorted messages, not only about same-sex marriage, but about homosexuality itself. It's a very dangerous course to proceed.”

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg also criticized the move.

“The majority of people should not be ruling on the rights of the minority,” she said.

A poll released last week found 53 percent of New Jersey voters favor legalizing gay nuptials.