Governor Martin O’Malley

The Maryland Senate has approved marriage equality legislation introduced by the state’s governor, but the law is expected to be challenged in a referendum.

On Thursday, the senate’s passing of the bill in a 25 for and 22 against vote was met with loud cheers from the public gallery.

Governor Martin O’Malley, who championed the bill, will next sign the legislation into law.

The move comes shortly after the state of Washington legalised same-sex marriage earlier this month.

This makes Maryland the eighth state in the U.S. to give its citizens marriage equality, although the federal government still does not recognise these unions.

“We could not be more grateful to the senators who today voted to make all Maryland families stronger,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Today, we took another giant step toward marriage equality becoming law.”

The law, however, is expected to be challenged. Virtually any piece of legislation in Maryland law can be subject to a referendum where voters cast a ballot supporting or opposing the legislation.

Opponents of marriage equality are expected to begin obtaining the 55,736 signatures necessary to refer the Civil Marriage Protection Act to the general election ballot.

If they succeed, the law will be voted on by the state’s citizens later this year.

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