Opponents of a stalled gay marriage bill in the New Jersey Legislature won another victory Friday when five previously undecided Republican senators publicly announced they wouldn't vote in favor of the bill.

The lawmakers said it's “unlikely that a bill redefining marriage can pass the Senate” in an email to Democrats who had sought their support on the bill, NJ.com reported.

“Moving testimony in Senate hearings suggest that New Jersey's civil union law is not always understood or followed,” the email said. “We need to educate the public about the law, and enhance it if necessary so that no civil union partner is turned away from the hospital bed of a loved one.”

The effort to approve the gay marriage bill is under a tight deadline. Governor-elect Chris Christie, a Republican whose tenure begins in mid-January, opposes the measure, giving proponents less than five weeks to shore up support before Governor Jon Corzine leaves office.

The bill managed to survive a key Senate committee vote earlier this month by a single vote, then was rerouted to the Assembly at the request of its sponsors. Supporters are gambling a big win in the Assembly will improve their odds on the Senate floor. But leaders in the lower chamber have yet to commit to posting the bill. An Assembly hearing before lawmakers break for the holidays is widely seen as unlikely.

Governor Jon Corzine's defeat in November – as well as a series of gay marriage loses in nearby New York and Maine – have weakened support for the bill.

Gay activists say New Jersey's civil unions law does not offer the same protections as marriage.