Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie says if elected he would support an effort to ban gay marriage in New Jersey.

“If you're going to make that type of groundbreaking societal change, people should get the chance to vote on it,” Christie told The Associated Press in a Friday interview. Christie, 47, says he supports civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

Governor Jon Corzine has promised to back a gay marriage bill.

“I think we ought to go to marriage equality,” Corzine told Newark daily the Star-Ledger last week.

The governor has promised that if re-elected he would shepherd a gay marriage bill through the Legislature, possibly as soon as November during a special lame-duck session.

Corzine signed a civil unions law in 2006, calling it a “proud” moment, but made it clear at the time that he believed marriage was reserved for heterosexual unions.

Lately, however, he has shifted on the issue, even appearing last summer at a Gay Pride festival in Asbury Park.

“I want to be very clear on this,” Corzine told the Star-Ledger. “I don't call it gay marriage. I call it marriage equality because I believe that we ought to be treating people under our Constitution here in the state of New Jersey as determined by our courts. There needs to be equal treatment under the law. If it's lame-duck, or if it doesn't occur in lame-duck, I'll push for it in the next year.”

The governor's support for gay marriage has turned the Garden State into the next likely battleground in the gay marriage debate.

Democrats that support gay marriage outweigh Republicans in the Legislature, but without Corzine in the governor's mansion a gay marriage bill would likely be delayed four more years because Democrats do not command a veto proof majority.

With the state plagued by high unemployment and a sagging economy, Christie commanded a 10 point lead over the incumbent Corzine in June. But recent polls show the race tightening up to within a couple of points.