The Maryland Senate on Thursday approved legislation that grants same sex couples all the marriage rights currently enjoyed by opposite sex couples, sending the bill to Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“All children deserve the opportunity to live in a loving, caring, committed, and stable home, protected equally under the law," O'Malley, who sponsored the bill, said. "The common thread running through our efforts together in Maryland is the thread of human dignity; the dignity of work, the dignity of faith, the dignity of family, the dignity of every individual."

"Thanks to our elected leaders, clergy and faith-based leaders, community leaders, civic organizations, civil rights groups, and citizens from across our State, Maryland will now be able to protect individual civil marriage rights and religious freedom equally."

After O'Malley signs the bill into law, Maryland will become the eighth state to have legalized same sex marriages.

On February 13, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) signed a bill into law allowing same sex couples to marry. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and the District of Columbia have all legalized same sex marriages as well.

The New Jersey legislature also recently approved same sex legislation, but it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Those who oppose same sex marriage have vowed to collect the 55,736 signatures needed place a repeal of the Maryland law on the November ballot.

"Legislators who vote to redefine marriage will be held accountable to their constituents," Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, said. "Those Republicans in the Assembly who abandoned principle and traded their votes will be held to account. Upwards of 80% of Republican voters oppose same-sex marriage. Democrats, too, will have to answer to their constituents, including the upwards of 70% of African Americans who oppose redefining marriage."

No same sex marriages can take place in Maryland until the law takes effect on January 1.

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