NEW YORK — New Jersey's legislature has shelved a vote planned for Thursday on allowing gay marriage in the state, media reports said.

The vote in the state Senate was canceled at the last minute when Democrats backing same-sex nuptials realized they were not sure of getting enough support for the bill to pass, reported WNYC radio and local newspapers.

A spokeswoman for the state assembly said the vote was no longer expected to take place but added that this was not yet official.

Sponsors of the bill, which seeks to make New Jersey the sixth US state giving homosexuals full marriage rights, instead plan to stoke momentum by putting the proposed law before the lower house's judiciary committee, reports said.

This week the Senate judiciary committee narrowly voted to clear the bill -- an important victory for gay rights advocates.

Supporters are racing against time because while Democratic Governor Jon Corzine backs the bill, his replacement from January 19, Republican Chris Christie, says he would veto it.

To become law, the bill would have to be approved in full votes by both houses, then signed by the governor.

Democrats control the assembly, but are not all in favor of gay marriage.

New Jersey allows civil unions for gay couples, a status that homosexual rights activists say falls short of marriage.

The controversial issue has taken a political rollercoaster this year.

Last week the state assembly in neighboring New York overwhelmingly rejected a gay marriage bill.

Earlier this year, a referendum in Maine repealed the local government's approval of same-sex marriage rights, as happened in California and Hawaii. Gay marriage has not yet won a popular vote in any US state.

Five states that have moved to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples have done so through court rulings or votes in the state legislature.

Those states are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont, with New Hampshire allowing gay marriage starting in January.