Maryland will offer gay state employees equal marriage benefits as heterosexual couples, the Washington Post reported.

The change allows spouses of employees in a same-sex marriage to be signed up as dependents, a move that allows them to receive health care and other benefits.

Governor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, announced the change Wednesday.

O'Malley is following through on a promise that his administration would follow a February gay marriage opinion by Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. Gansler concluded that state agencies should recognize the marriages of gay couples performed in other jurisdictions over the objection of a state law that bans such unions. The opinion arrived just days before a gay marriage law in neighboring District of Columbia went into effect.

O'Malley endorsed the opinion, saying it's “sound advice.”

Lawmakers opposed to giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry attempted to block the opinion. Several Republican lawmakers offered bills that would have forbidden the state from recognizing the out-of-state marriages of gay couples, while Maryland Delegate Don Dwyer failed in his bid to impeach Gansler. Dwyer, a Republican, cited “willful neglect of duty” in filing his charges against the state's top attorney in the House.

A Washington Post poll conducted last month found that 55% of Maryland voters agree that the state should recognize the unions of gay couples married in another state.

Gay marriage opponents say the public's increasing acceptance for the institution is a result of support by politicians.

“The public is not changing – politicians are changing,” Delegate Emmett C. Burns, a Democrat and a Baltimore County pastor, told the paper. “They get elected and push the gay-lesbian agenda. They are ruthless in aggressively fashioning it as a form of discrimination, and that's simply not accurate.”