NEW YORK — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill Friday to legalize same-sex marriage in the state, after legislators had approved the measure, insisting the issue needed to be put to a referendum.

Christie, a Republican, insisted the issue was so important "it should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide."

The governor said he continued "to encourage the legislature to trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly significant societal change."

A referendum by New Jersey citizens, as opposed to their representatives in state government, he said, was "the only path to amend our state constitution and the best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in our state."

Christie, a rising star in the Republican party who supports White House hopeful Mitt Romney and has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate, has repeatedly said he would not approve the bill.

"I am not a fan of same-sex marriage," Christie said in a recent television interview.

"It's not something that I support. I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman. That's my view. And that'll be the view of our state because I wouldn't sign a bill like the one that was in New York."

So far, seven US states -- Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington -- and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages.

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Photo by Bob Jagendorf from Manalapan, NJ, USA (NJ Governor Chris Christie) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons