"This could be a perfect storm to get out the Democratic base," Gusciora said.
Christie, who vetoed the gay-marriage bill a year ago, has urged lawmakers to put the question to voters.
"On this issue, I am comfortable with the people of the state of New Jersey making the decision," Christie said Tuesday in Lavallette. "If they want to put it on the ballot, put it on the ballot."
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat who opposed gay marriage in 2010 but now supports it, has efused to put the question to voters. He has said same-sex marriage is a civil-rights issue that does not belong on the ballot. But Sweeney, of Gloucester County, and Assembly Democratic Leader Lou Greenwald, of Camden County, recognize the difficulty of overriding Christie and have agreed to keep their options open, Gusciora said.
This displeases Troy Stevenson, who recently took over as head of Garden State Equality, the state's largest gay-rights organization. Stevenson, who worked in Maine in 2009 on the losing side of a gay-marriage referendum, said the effort to win marriage equality by ballot initiative is divisive, expensive, and rough on families headed by same-sex partners.
"We still believe override is the immediate goal," he said.
The Democratic-led Legislature has never overridden a Christie veto. It would need a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and Assembly, which means some Republicans would have to be willing to cross the governor.
The effort will start in the Senate, where Sweeney will need to persuade 27 of 40 senators to support gay marriage. The Assembly would need yes votes from 54 of its 80 members.
Stevenson acknowledges that if the vote were held next week, the override would fail. But he holds out hope that an expected June ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on the Defense of Marriage Act could bring new momentum - and votes - if the court rules as gay activists hope.
Three states - Maine, Maryland and Washington - approved gay marriage in ballot questions last November with President Obama at the top of the ticket.