Maryland became the eighth state to legalize gay marriage on Thursday as Governor Martin O’Malley signed the marriage equality bill into law. The bill, called the Civil Marriage Protection Act, was passed in the Maryland House of Delegates on February 17th by a narrow vote of 72 to 67. The Maryland Senate followed suit less than a week later. The new law will go into effect January 2013.
Before signing the bill into law, the Governor said, “For a free and diverse people, for a people of many faiths, for a people committed to the principle of religious freedom, the way forward is always found for the greater respect of the equal rights of all, for the human dignity of all.”
Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, and the District of Columbia currently allow and recognize gay marriage. Washington’s recently passed gay marriage law will go into effect this June. About 30 states have constitutional amendments that seek to prohibit same-sex marriage.
Opponents are already mobilizing against the new law in Maryland, pushing for a referendum as a way to reverse the change this fall. They will need to gather 56,000 valid signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.