The Senate Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly passed controversial legislation Thursday night that is dividing cultural values and will redefine marriage in the state.
The Civil Marriage Protection Act, which will legalize gay marriage in the state, was passed with a 25-22 vote.
"I think it's a great step forward for civil rights," Manchester resident Sean Carter said.
Carter, 42, has been in a same-sex relationship for two years and said he has plans to get married this April in Washington, where the measure is already legal.
"We would have loved to get married here, but we don't want to wait," he said.
Carter, who attended a rally in Annapolis for the bill earlier this month, said the denial of marriage in the state has made him feel like a second-class citizen.
"All it's about is us getting the same, fair and equal treatment that everyone else has," he said. "We want the same civil rights that everyone else has."
Maryland will become the eighth state to legalize gay marriage with the signature from Gov. Martin O'Malley, who sponsored the bill.
The vote comes less than one week after the House of Delegates passed the measure in a hotly debated 72-67 vote.
Though local supporters of the bill say it's a civil rights issue, opponents argue that it goes against the traditional institution of marriage.
"Marriage to me, as I understand it in the Bible and in the secular world, in our world, is really between one man and one woman," said Carroll County Detention Center's Chaplain Bob Kimmel.
Kimmel, 60, said he is disappointed in the vote and that dialogue on the issue needs to remain open.
Westminster resident Ken Noto has been in a same-sex relationship for more than 22 years. In the event that he wanted to visit his partner in the hospital during family visitation hours, he has to lie to gain clearance by posing as his brother.
"There are so many things that married couples take for granted that are denied to same-sex couples," Noto said.
Noto, 56, said he deserves the same civil liberties that every other tax-paying citizen in Maryland receives, which includes marriage.
"It's about time the state will recognize our relationship. Now we don't have to worry about when one of us gets sick and [the other] wants to visit in the hospital when its family only, now we can go right in," he said.
The bill will go into effect in January 2013, though a push from opposing legislators to bring the measure to referendum on the November ballot is expected.