Rep. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, top left, stands with other openly gay members of the Maryland General Assembly as Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signs the state's same-sex marriage bill into law.
Maryland has joined seven other states and the District in allowing same sex marriages, and hundreds of supporters gathered at the state house in Annapolis Thursday to celebrate.
The state house is the longest serving such building in the country, dating back to 1772. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the bill legalizing same-sex marriage yards from the old senate chamber where George Washington famously resigned his commission as commander in chief of the Continental Army in 1783.
The fight over same sex marriage, in this building at least, was waged over the past two years. Victory for same-sex marriage advocates was sealed last month when the House of Delegates narrowly passed the measure after stopping it last year. The vote was far from easy, according to openly gay Del. Heather Mizuer (D).
"One by one by one by one we got to 72," Mizuer said. "And the last five votes were probably the hardest, but they were also the most cherished conversations that I will take with me from this debate."
Gay unions can't take place until a possible voter referendum this fall is decided, but even that could not dampen the day for Mizuer.
"Nothing can take away this joy of knowing that our colleagues stood by our side ... took the courageous votes … to say we're going to treat every Maryland family equally under the law," Mizuer said. "It's a very proud day for Marylanders."
While acknowledging that a voter referendum is likely, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown was not worried by it. "I am very optimistic that this will become the law, or continue to be the law in Maryland," Brown said.
For Irene Huskens of Fort Washington and Leia Burkes of Bowie, being at the state house to see the bill signed was all important. "I can't stop saying how proud I am to be a Prince Georgian and a Marylander," Huskens said.
Added Burkes: "Yeah, I feel the same way, just to be a part of something historic." Huskens said she never considered moving to another state where same-sex marriage was allowed, or even jumping over the county border into D.C., where it's legal.
"If the hand were forced, then yeah, I could definitely go somewhere else," she said. "We're not quite ready to get married ... but now come January, maybe we'll do it in Maryland."
Opponents seeking to get the matter to a referendum before voters in the fall got approval for their petition from the state election board this week. They must get 56,000 valid signatures by the summer to get the measure on the ballot.