Maryland governor Martin O’Malley signed the marriage equality bill on Thursday in Annapolis, a week after the Senate passed the bill in a vote.
The bill signing makes Maryland the eighth state in the US to legalise gay marriage. However, the law will not take effect until January 2013, and opponents have already submitted draft language for a ballot referendum in November.
Proponents of the referendum are expected to rely on the Catholic Church, which has 1.2 million parishioners in Maryland, and also African-American church leaders to supply votes for the referendum, which would need 56, 000 voter signatures. The Associated Press reported that some pastors at predominantly black churches were already using their sermons to shop the referendum effort to their congregations over the weekend.