Breaking Same-Sex Marriage News of the Day: Maryland today officially became the first East Coast state below the Mason-Dixon line to legalize same-sex marriage.

Governor Martin O’Malley signed the state’s marriage equality bill this afternoon after the Maryland House and Senate passed the legislation on Feb. 17th and 23rd, respectively.

“For a free and diverse people, for people of many faiths, for people committed to the principal of religious freedom,” O’Malley said at the signing ceremony, “the way forward is always found through grater respect for human rights of all, through human dignity for all.”

Same-sex couples won’t be able to get married until January, when the law formally takes effect. Until then, there is still a chance opponents could successfully petition to have the issue placed on November’s ballot. To do so, they would need at least 55,736 valid signature from Maryland voters.

Seven states — CT, IA, MA, NH, NY, VT, WA — and Washington D.C. currently recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry. However, Washington state’s newly signed bill still needs to fend off a the threat of referendum in order to take effect this June.

[wjla / myfoxdc.]