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Incoming Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who defeated Mr. Corzine in November, had said he would veto the measure.

With failure of the bill in the Senate, the proposal now could lie dormant for years while Mr. Christie is in office.

Political observers have said Mr. Christie’s victory made some lawmakers wary of supporting the controversial measure.

New Jersey has a same-sex civil union law, designed to give gay couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. But advocates of gay marriage say civil unions are inadequate.

NEW YORK

Sales show signs of life

NEW YORK — A firm stand on prices and a surge of last-minute holiday shoppers gave retailers a big present: modest December sales gains and healthy profits, a big improvement from last year’s Christmas catastrophe.

Many retailers raised their fourth-quarter outlooks Thursday. A big reason why: Stores never had to resort to drastic price-cutting after keeping inventories lean.

The solid finish capped a rough year that saw the biggest sales decline in at least four decades, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

December sales rose 2.8 percent compared with a year ago, according to the ICSC sales index; sales for the year fell 2 percent from all of 2008. For November and December combined, the index rose 1.8 percent, better than the group’s estimate for a 1 percent gain.

Last year, holiday sales fell 5.8 percent, the biggest sales decline for the key period in at least four decades.

NORTH CAROLINA

Ex-guards charged with murder

RALEIGH — Two former Blackwater contractors have been arrested on murder charges in the killings of two Afghans last year.

An indictment obtained by the Associated Press charges Justin Cannon, 27, and Chris Drotleff, 29, with second-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons charges. Both of them are in custody.

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