The Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage Friday evening, a long-awaited victory for gay marriage advocates that religious leaders and critics vowed to fight.

The bill, which passed the Senate but died in the House last year, passed by a 72-67 vote, and will likely go before Gov. Martin O’Malley for his signature later this General Assembly.

However, both sides expect the issue to go to voter referendum in November.

Critics are expected to put up a strong fight to prevent Maryland from becoming the eighth state, along with the District, to legalize same-sex marriage.

O’Malley said Friday he’s ready to push back and ensure the bill passes. The governor and other supporters were able to secure enough GOP support to pass the House – Delegates Wade Kach of Baltimore County and Robert Costa of Anne Arundel County voted for the bill.

“Now, as the Senate prepares to vote, all of us are needed – and we’re prepared to redouble our efforts,” he said in a statement. “The common thread running through our efforts together in Maryland is the thread of human dignity… Love is an unalienable right.”