However, the bill, passed 56-19 in the Assembly and 23-12 in the Senate, does not grant homosexual couples the right to call their civil unions "marriage," the Allentown (N.J.) Examiner reported Thursday.
The state Supreme Court had earlier ordered the legislature to either extend marriage rights to same-sex couples or create an equal institution. The bill came 60 days into the 180-day limit set by the court.
Some lawmakers said the civil union bill was pushed through as it seemed more likely to pass than an extension of marriage rights.
"Leadership said there's no point in putting (the same-sex marriage bill) up since we don't have the votes at this time, so let's only put up what we can get the votes for," said Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex/Mercer, who voted for the bill. "Just based on discussions with my colleagues, it seems that this time the furthest people really wanted to go was the civil union," she said.