The Maryland Legislature approved a law to allow same-sex marriage in the state.
The legislation, which passed on a 25-22 vote, will make Maryland the eighth state to legalize same-sex unions when Gov. Martin O'Malley, who sponsored the bill, signs it, as he has said he will do as soon as it reaches his desk.
"All children deserve the opportunity to live in a loving, caring, committed and stable home, protected equally under the law," O'Malley said. "The common thread running through our efforts together in Maryland is the thread of human dignity; the dignity of work, the dignity of faith, the dignity of family, the dignity of every individual."
The vote followed lengthy debate, including concerns about religious freedom and how same-sex marriage could affect religious institutions, News4's Darcy Spencer reported.
“We will in fact see a circumstance where a religious entity has to make that very difficult choice between complying with their deeply held religious convictions that this amendment protects versus the coercive power of the state to say, You have to comply with this law,” Sen. Christopher Shank, R-Washington County, said.
But supporters of the bill noted it includes religious protections.
“No church will ever under any circumstances have to perform, solemnize or celebrate or promote same-sex marriage or indeed any marriage that they disapprove of -- interracial marriage, interfaith marriage, what have you -- that’s completely within the discretion of the church to decide,” Sen Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery County, said.
Last week the House of Delegates passed the bill by a thin margin, courting just one more vote than necessary to pass the measure.
Opponents have vowed to bring it to voters with a referendum on the November ballot. They most collect more than 55,000 signatures to put it on the ballot.