ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland became the eighth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage on Thursday, just as opponents were ramping up efforts to repeal the new law at the ballot box.
At a ceremony in the state capitol building attended by a cheering crowd of gay-marriage supporters, Governor Martin O'Malley signed into law the measure he has hailed as a sign of "equal respect for the freedom of all."
Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York and the District of Columbia currently allow gay and lesbian nuptials.
Washington will join the list in June unless opponents stop it ahead of a possible ballot initiative, and Maryland will be added in January 2013 unless its law, too, is overturned by a threatened referendum in November.
Same-sex marriage supporters in Maine, meanwhile, have gathered more than enough signatures to put the question to voters there this fall, all but guaranteeing it will remain a hotly debated issue in several corners of the country during a presidential election year.