The Maryland Senate on Thursday will begin debate on Governor Martin O'Malley's plan to make Maryland the eighth state to legalize gay marriage.

The Senate will likely vote on amendments to the bill on Thursday and hold off on a final vote until Friday.

“I hope to have it passed in its entirety by Friday,” Senate President Thomas Mike Miller Jr. told Reuters. Miller, who opposes gay marriage, has previously said the believes the bill will clear the chamber.

The move comes less than a week after the measure narrowly cleared a long-standing hurdle in the House of Delegates and days after the Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee sent it to the full Senate.

The Senate approved a similar bill last year before it was shelved in the House due to lack of support.

Supporters have said they believe they still have the support of the 25 senators who voted for the bill last year.

Only one Senate Republican, Senator Allan Kittleman of Howard, voted in favor of the measure last year.

An amendment likely to be considered would expand the bill's religious exemptions to include private businesses and individuals.

Opponents of the measure have vowed to put the issue before voters in the fall.