Governor Martin O’Malley just signed Maryland’s marriage-equality bill, reports the AP, making it the eighth state in the U.S. to legally recognize same-sex nuptials.

The bill won’t go into effect until January 2013, but 0pponents have already mobilized to get the nearly 56,000 signatures required to put the issue to a referendum. Gay and lesbian couples can only hold their breath to see if anti-equality forces get enough names. If they do, voters will decide the issue in November and, as in Maine, the measure could be silenced by the will of the public.

O’Malley released a statement after signing, saying:

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 to be found through greater respect for the equal rights of all; for the human dignity of all.

Religious freedom was the very reason for our State’s founding. At the heart of religious freedom is the freedom of individual conscience. If there is a thread that unites the story of our people, it is the thread of human dignity; the dignity of work; the dignity of family; the dignity of every child’s home; the dignity of every individual.

We are One Maryland, and all of us, at the end of the day, want the same thing for our children: to live in a loving, stable, committed home protected equally under the law.

Sounds pretty straightforward, no?

Photo via MDGovPics

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