The Maryland Senate has for a second time approved a bill legalizing gay marriage in the state.

After more than two hour's worth of debate, one Republican, Senator Allan Kittleman, crossed the aisle to join 24 Democrats in voting for the bill.

Kittleman told colleagues that marriage equality is the “civil rights issue of our generation.”

The move comes nearly a week after the House of Delegates approved the measure and days after the Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee sent it to the full Senate.

A gay marriage bill cleared the Senate last year before it was ultimately shelved in the House due to lack of support.

Supporters fought back about a half-dozen Republican amendments, including one which would have expanded the bill's religious protections to include private businesses and individuals.

Democratic Senator Rich Madaleno, the chamber's only openly gay member, urged colleagues to let him marry his long-term partner.

In promoting the bill, Governor Martin O'Malley has said that the legislation is needed to help protect the children of gay and lesbian couples.

“It is not right or just that the children of gay couples should have lesser protections than the children of other families in our state,” O'Malley testified during a committee hearing. “Nor would it be right to force religious institutions to conduct marriages that conflict with their own religious beliefs and teachings.”

Opponents of the measure have vowed to put the issue before voters in the fall. To put the measure on the ballot, opponents need nearly 56,000 valid signatures, one-third of which would need to be submitted by May 31 and the remainder by June 30.

Maryland becomes the eighth state to legalize gay nuptials. Earlier this month, Washington state lawmakers approved a similar measure.