Frederick News Post and Associated Press
The ballot measure to decide whether same-sex couples can marry in Maryland was passed late Tuesday.
According to the Maryland State Board of Elections, about 51 percent of Maryland voters or roughly 903,000 approved allowing same-sex marriages in the state, while about 871,000 voters disapproved.
As many as 182,327 absentee ballots were issued and remain to be counted, according to the Board of Elections.
Maryland is the first state in the country to allow same-sex marriage after putting the question on the ballot.
Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act into law in March.
He has said the law protects the religious beliefs of clergy as they don't have to conduct same-sex marriages.
Opponents responded by mustering 113,000 signatures to challenge the law in a voter referendum.
Thirty-two states have held votes on same-sex marriage since 1998; all have opposed it.
Maryland joined Maine, Washington and Minnesota in putting the referendum on the ballot Tuesday.
Austin Beach, executive director of The Frederick Center, an LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) group seeking status as a nonprofit, said he was confident late Tuesday the measure would pass.
"It really shows the shift that's happened in the national conscience," he said.
The legislation is a model for the nation as it provides religious freedoms for those who do not wish to conduct marriages for same-sex couples, Beach said.
The Rev. Barbara Kershner Daniel, senior pastor at Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ in Frederick, volunteered to mobilize voters in support of the measure.
If the bill passes, she and her church will be delighted that Marylanders voted for equal rights of all its citizens, she said.
If it doesn't, she would continue to fight for equal rights and justice for all families.
Pastor Luke J. Robinson of Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Frederick recently hosted a rally in opposition to same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage goes against the wishes of God and could lead to social, political and cultural catastrophe, he said Tuesday.
"Freedom of speech will be taken away, along with freedom of religion," he said. "I won't be able to speak out to say this is a bad lifestyle."
The Rev. Anjel Scarborough, of Grace Episcopal Church in Brunswick, said if the measure passes, she'll be happy for the LGBT community.
Her congregation believes respecting the dignity of every person and upholding civil rights is the right thing to do, she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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