A leading opponent of gay marriage in New Jersey says he is heartened that voters in California, Arizona and Florida added bans to their state constitutions last week.

Advocates for same-sex marriage say those votes could motivate residents to push for marriage equality in New Jersey.

It remains unclear when the opposing outlooks will be put to the test in a legislative battle that was expected to happen after last week's election.

"Right now the biggest priority we all have is getting this economy going," Gov. Corzine said yesterday. "I think we ought to stay focused on the most important things that need to be addressed."

Jennifer Sciortino, a spokeswoman for Senate President Richard J. Codey (D., Essex), said legislators were focused on passing Corzine's economic-stimulus package.

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D., Camden) was also coy about when the issue might be addressed.

"The speaker continues to believe that full marriage equality in New Jersey is simply a matter of when, and not if," Derek Roseman said.

Gay-rights legislation in New Jersey has a history of arriving faster than expected.

In 2006, the state Supreme Court ruled that New Jersey had to offer gay couples the same rights and protection as married couples and gave the Legislature six months to figure out how to do it.

At first, top lawmakers said they would take their time to assess their options. But within two months, they adopted a civil-union law that allows gay couples the rights of marriage without the title.

The gay-rights group Garden State Equality used that as a platform to press for full marriage. The first couple to hold a ceremony under the new law was Steve Goldstein, chairman of the group, and Daniel Gross.

Goldstein told guests at the ceremony, held just after midnight on Feb. 19, 2007, that he would push for full marriage rights. "You're all invited to that wedding in the next two years - or less," he said.

He called for New Jersey to become the first state to have a law recognizing gay marriage. Corzine has said he would sign such a bill.

So far, the only states to allow the unions - Massachusetts in 2004 and Connecticut and California this year - did so by order of their top courts.

The biggest successes for opponents of gay marriage have been on ballot initiatives. Twenty-nine states have adopted constitutional amendments to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

California is the first state that has allowed gay couples to marry and then, because of last week's passage of Proposition 8, had to stop issuing marriage licenses to them.

Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, said the measures bode well for advocates of keeping marriage restricted to heterosexual couples.

"When it comes to various social issues, the country does tend to lean center-right," Deo said.

He also said lawmakers unsure how to settle the debate might consider the option he prefers: a voter-approved constitutional amendment. Such a ballot question would require legislative approval.

Garden State Equality's Goldstein said passage of Proposition 8 was a wake-up call for gay-rights advocates in New Jersey and had increased membership and donations to his organization, though he wouldn't specify how much.

Goldstein said he was confident that lawmakers would allow gay marriage during this legislative session, which will end in January 2010.

"I recently lost 50 pounds," he said. "I expect to be a thin bride in 2009."