Maryland's governor has signed a measure legalizing gay marriage, joining seven other states and the District of Columbia.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, signed the bill today, a week after its final passage in the Legislature. The law is scheduled to take effect in January 2013. But opponents are expected to petition the law to a referendum on the November ballot.

Referendum organizers need to collect almost 56,000 signatures to put the measure before voters, and are expected to rely heavily on churchgoers who oppose same-sex marriage as a matter of faith.

Some pastors in predominantly black churches have begun using their sermons to push the referendum.

 

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)