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And Then There Were 8: Maryland Gov Signs Marriage Equality Bill

Unlike New Jersey's blowhard-in-chief Chris Christie, Maryland Gov. Martin Malley didn't waffle. He did what leaders are supposed to do, and signed Maryland's HB 438 last night, making them the eighth state to make marriage equality

Unlike New Jersey's blowhard-in-chief Chris Christie, Maryland Gov. Martin Malley didn't waffle. He did what leaders are supposed to do, and signed Maryland's HB 438 last night, making them the eighth state to make marriage equality legal:

Amid cheers and camera flashes from a crush of onlookers, Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law Thursday his bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Maryland — legislation that raises his national profile and, advocates say, gives momentum to those pushing similar measures in three states.

"The way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights of all," said O'Malley, giving brief remarks before signing the legislation. "If there is a thread that unites all of our work here together, it is the thread of human dignity. … Let's sign the bill."

The ceremony was held in a marble hallway on the first floor of the State House, with O'Malley and the General Assembly's presiding officers seated before a staircase packed with supportive lawmakers and advocates.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller gave the crowd a thumbs-up. House Speaker Michael E. Busch beamed and pointed to supporters. After signing, all three handed out black pens — one of the first going to Del. Maggie McIntosh, the first openly gay Maryland lawmaker.

O'Malley invited the crowd to join him "across the street" in the governor's mansion for a reception open to the public.

The law doesn't take effect until 2013, and opponents have started the process to collect signatures for an attempt to repeal the measure in November.

"We're in full swing to put this on the ballot and let the people decide," said the Rev. Derek McCoy of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposes the bill. "Not the governor, who brings a unique level of craftiness and tricks to the process."

Yes, indeed. The governor made some aggressive deals to make this happen, unlike certain loud-mouthed bully boys who are too afraid of the fringe members of their own party to make a peep about civil rights. The bill was shelved last year without enough support, but O'Malley's office took up the cause this year and worked hard to get enough votes. It passed by one vote.

Maryland now faces an all-out assault from right-wing and/or religious groups, who are expected to pour big money into the state to keep the referendum from being approved. (Human Rights Campaign has already spend $500,000 there.) The usual suspects will be fighting passage:

Maryland Marriage Alliance, a coalition of religious groups, is leading the campaign to overturn the law.

The organization is gathering petition signatures, the first step in the referendum process. The organization is linked to the powerful National Organization for Marriage, a group formed to fight for California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex unions.

Meaning, lots of Mormon cash will be inundating Maryland.

"It is clear that while the opponents of marriage have been seeking influence from an elite group of politicians and supporters, the average citizens of Maryland continue to believe in the time-tested, unalterable definition of marriage," Derek McCoy, executive director of Maryland Marriage Alliance, said in a statement this week.

The "average" citizens? We'll see. In the meantime, congratulations to Gov. O'Malley and those who supported the bill for doing the right thing.

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