ANNAPOLIS, Maryland, March 1, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The governor of Maryland has signed a new law extending the definition of marriage to include homosexual couples one day after opponents were given the green light to collect signatures for an initiative to put the marriage question to state voters.

The bill was approved in a 25-22 Senate vote after only 48 hours of deliberation on Feb. 23, six days after it passed the House of Delegates. Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature makes Maryland the seventh state to redefine marriage, in addition to the District of Columbia.

Meanwhile, traditional marriage supporters have already made headway bringing the issue to voters: Mary Cramer Wagner, director of the board’s Voter Registration Division, told the Baltimore Sun on Wednesday that petition drafts filed by the Maryland Marriage Alliance and a Maryland delegate have been deemed compliant with state petition regulations.

Traditional marriage supporters said they would wait until official clearance from the board to begin collecting signatures, of which they need nearly 56,000 before the referendum can be cleared for the ballot.

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Derek McCoy, director for the Maryland Marriage Alliance, said the Senate vote crammed the bill through on a tight schedule, and “rushed through multiple potential amendments to the bill, and disregarded the voices of thousand of voting citizens weighing in to express their disapproval of redefining marriage.” But, he said, the battle is “not over.”

“Despite the impetuous decision made by the Senate, the people of Maryland will have the last say,” said McCoy in a press release this week.

McCoy told the Sun that he couldn’t offer an estimate on the amount of funding the group planned to spend on pushing the initiative, while local gay rights supporters told the same paper they were preparing to spend more than half a million dollars.

Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, Baltimore’s apostolic administrator, said that the bill’s success, while not surprising, “places Maryland one step closer to the dismantling of the most fundamental social institution in all of society.”

“Now, Maryland’s politicians unconscionably have chosen political expediency over the good of society - the fundamental charge of their office - by daring to redefine this sacred union between one man and one woman,” said O’Brien following the Senate vote. “Their action poses a grave threat to the future stability of the nuclear family and the society it anchors.”

In a recent interview with the Christian Post, local pro-family leader Bishop Harry Jackson emphasized that changing the definition of marriage in Maryland will reverberate and will inevitably reach schools and children.

“The reality is, if you change the definition of marriage, you change the definition of the family, then you change what is taught in schools – that it’s okay for Heather to have two mommies – and exploring your ‘sexual awareness’ as a young child is acceptable; and it’s not,” he said. Jackson pointed to public school programs in Washington, D.C. that already encourage “young children” to explore homosexuality and transgenderism.

The religious leader was optimistic about the ballot initiative, noting that traditional marriage supporters are “31 for 31 on gay marriage when it’s been put before the voters of different states.”