Maryland has become the eighth U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. But opponents of the new law are vowing to get it overturned by bringing the measure to a referendum and letting the voters decide in November. Maryland is not the only place where same-sex marriage laws are being challenged.
"The way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights of all," said Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley as he signed the bill into law.
Maryland joins seven other states and Washington D.C., with laws allowing gay couples to wed. It's been a hotly-debated issue that cuts across political, racial, social and religious backgrounds. Under the new law, gay couples in Maryland would not be able to marry until next year. David Foertschbeck and Dan Wilkey say they're already planning.
"We'll get married next year probably, at some point, but we'll wait until it gets over the hurdle. The last hurdle," said Wilkey.
Opponents of the same-sex law have vowed to bring the measure to a referendum and let the voters decide in November.
"I have in my hands a pencil and it has an eraser on the end. They might as well have signed that bill in lead," said Maryland lawmaker Emmett Burns.
Some African-American churches and clergy members are also pushing for a referendum. They oppose the law, saying it violates their tradition which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Same-sex marriage legislation and laws face obstacles in other states as well. In New Jersey, the legislature passed a bill to allow gays to marry, but the measure was vetoed by the governor.
In California, gay marriage remains on hold since voters there narrowly approved a referendum called "Proposition 8" to ban it in 2008. A federal appeals court has struck down the ban as unconstitutional, but the case is still in litigation. It may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court as early as next year. However, legal experts say any ruling would only apply to California.
"We believe marriage is between a man and a woman. And whether people like that or not that's what the people want," said George Reilly, a "Proposition 8" supporter.
President Barack Obama says he supports letting states decide, but personally favors so-called "civil unions."
"I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, but I also think that same-sex partners should be able to visit each other in hospitals. They should be able to transfer property," said Obama.
Obama has come under fire from some in the gay community for not supporting national efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. Several states like Illinois, Nevada, and Oregon allow civil unions, but have constitutional amendments or statutes that prohibit same-sex marriage. Analysts say the debate will continue to intensify during this election year as public opinion polls suggest a majority of Americans support same sex marriage but only by a slim margin.