A contentious gay marriage bill in the New Jersey Legislature will face a major obstacle to passage on Thursday, January 7, if its sponsors get their way.

Democratic Senators Loretta Weinberg and Raymond Lesniak have asked Senate President Richard Codey, a Democrat from Essex, to hold a floor vote on the bill Thursday.

Democrats control the Senate with two votes to spare but remain divided on the bill.

The bill was punted back to the Senate on New Year's Eve when Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, a Democrat from Camden, said he had heard enough on the bill and was prepared to put the bill up for a vote without a committee hearing but added that the Assembly would not go first in voting for the measure.

“I've advised the Senate sponsors that, if the bill is passed by the Senate, I am prepared to bring the bill directly to the Assembly floor for a vote before the end of this legislative session,” Roberts said in a statement.

Senate sponsors of the bill postponed a floor vote in December after it limped out of a committee hearing in hopes that a big win in the Assembly would help boost the bill's chances of passage in the Senate.

Now the bill is back in the Senate as Governor Jon Corzine's administration winds down. Governor-elect Christ Christie, a Republican who opposes gay marriage, assumes office on January 19.

“Obviously there's a lot of punting going on,” Codey told the Star-Ledger. “Sounds like a ballgame, and somebody's got to decide who's going to take the kick.”

Last month, a gay marriage bill in neighboring New York was killed by its Democratic-controlled Senate. Most of the New York senators had remained quiet on the issue and the final tally surprised many Albany watchers.

The fate of the New Jersey bill also rests on its Democratic-controlled Senate, whose members have kept quiet on the issue, leaving many to conclude the bill is in serious jeopardy.

“We're far from dead,” Steven Goldstein, executive director of Garden State Equality, the state's largest gay rights group, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“On an issue like marriage equality, which thousands of key players in the Democratic Party support so passionately, you predict at your own peril,” he added.