TRENTON - In a move that supporters call a civil rights milestone, New Jersey's state Senate passed a bill yesterday to recognize same-sex marriages.

Yesterday's vote was 24-16 in favor of the bill, a major swing from January 2010 when it was defeated 20-14. But opponents say it's "an exercise in futility" because even if the Assembly passes the bill Thursday, as expected, it's headed for a veto by Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie's pushing for a public vote on whether to allow gay marriage. But supporters say it's not right to put a civil rights issue on the ballot.

The vote came on the heels of another significant win for gay marriage advocates as the state of Washington just became the seventh state in the country to approve same-sex marriage.

A recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll finds that 54 percent of New Jersey voters favor legalizing same-sex marriage. However, 53 percent agree with Christie's position that the issue should be decided on the ballot.