© The Associated Press/Patrick Semansky
After the state Senate vote to approve same-sex marriage, Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery) hugs Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), left, and Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery), fellow openly gay members of the General Assembly.
Maryland will join seven states and the District in allowing same-sex marriage, ending a year-long drama in Annapolis over the legislation and expanding nationwide momentum for gay rights.
The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 25 to 22 Thursday night, and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has vowed to sign it into law.
To win some of the final votes needed for passage in the House of Delegates last week
, backers agreed to conditions that could help opponents place the new law on the November ballot. With polls showing the Maryland electorate
almost evenly split on the issue, a referendum all but promises another contentious battle before the issue is settled in the state.
Ministers of several African American megachurches
in Prince George's County as well as conservative and Catholic groups have vowed to help repeal the measure.
The likelihood that the issue could land on the November ballot in Maryland presents a potential dilemma for President Obama. He has been heavily courting the gay community for donations and votes in his reelection campaign but has stopped short of fully embracing marriage rights. Obama has said his views are "evolving," a statement viewed by many supporters in that community as a strong hint that he will soon endorse the cause, perhaps if and when he is safely reelected.