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Gay marriage losing support in New Jersey: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey voters are split on whether to legalize gay marriage, but more people now oppose it than support it, a poll found on Wednesday.

The Quinnipiac University survey found 49 percent of voters oppose a law allowing same-sex couples to marry, while 46 percent support such legislation, reversing an April poll that found 49 percent supported it and 43 percent opposed it.

"When we asked about gay marriage in April, it won narrow approval. Now that it seems closer to a legislative vote, it loses narrowly with the public," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Democratic New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine has pledged to sign a bill into law if it is passed by the legislature before his term ends in January. Corzine lost re-election this month to anti-gay marriage Republican Chris Christie.

But it remains uncertain if lawmakers in New Jersey, which already permits same-sex civil unions, will bring the issue to a vote. Civil unions afford couples largely the same rights as those of married couples -- from insurance coverage to tax benefits and hospital visiting rights.

The Quinnipiac poll of 1,615 New Jersey voters between November 17 and November 22 has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

Five U.S. states have legalized gay marriage -- Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- but earlier this month voters in a sixth state, Maine, chose to repeal such a law.

About 40 U.S. states have laws banning gay marriage.

President Barack Obama recently won a standing ovation at a dinner held by Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group, when he said he would fight for their cause and renewed a pledge to end restrictions on gay service in the military.

But many gay activists complain that Obama has done little to back up his rhetoric on gay rights, including not repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from forcing states to recognize gay marriage.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Sandra Maler)

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