Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley will sign a gay marriage bill into law on Thursday, making Maryland the eighth state to legalize such unions.

The Maryland Senate joined the House of Delegates in approving the bill last month.

O'Malley introduced the measure earlier this year and testified in its favor during committee hearings on the issue.

“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 told one panel. “Nor would it be right to force religious institutions to conduct marriages that conflict with their own religious beliefs and teachings.”

The governor is scheduled to sign the legislation during a 5PM ceremony Thursday.

Opponents of the measure on Wednesday announced that the State Board of Elections had approved their petition language, The Washington Post reported. The campaign to put the law up for a popular vote will be organized by the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which is supported by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

Nearly 56,000 valid signatures, one-third of which would need to be submitted by May 31, with the remainder by June 30, are needed to put the measure on the fall ballot.