On Thursday evening, Maryland became the eighth state—and the second this year—to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. In a vote of 25-22, the Senate opted to send the bill to Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, who co-sponsored it and plans to sign it next week.
The issue is not completely decided in the Free State, however. Maryland law allows voter referendums on approved legislation, and marriage equality activists fully expect opponents to earn the 55,736 signatures needed to place the initiative on November’s ballot, the Baltimore Sun reports.
The law won’t take effect until the referendum process is complete, and if voters confirm marriage equality, gay and lesbian couples can begin marrying on January 1, 2013.
The bill’s success is not assured in the hypothetical referendum. Polls show a majority of white Marylanders approve of same-sex marriage, but African-Americans are “strongly opposed,” the Sun reports. And with Barack Obama up for reelection this year, African-American voter turnout is expected to be very high.