Numerous gay couples across Maryland will be celebrating the New Year with a bumper toast as they share the occasion with their marriages, the first to be conducted following a referendum to legislate for marriage equality.

The US state of Maryland voted in favour of civil equal marriage in November with 52.4% of voters backing equality.

In the run up to the vote, Hollywood actor Brad Pitt agreed to donate $100,000 (£62,000) to help the Human Rights Campaign raise money for its efforts to support equal marriage initiatives in several US states, including Maryland.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who previously studied in the state, also donated $250,000 (£155,000) to the pro-marriage equality campaign in Maryland last week.

A bill to legalise same-sex marriage in Maryland was passed by the state General Assembly in February 2012 and signed into law on 1 March 2012, by Governor Martin O’Malley.

However, opponents of marriage equality successfully gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the decision.

In Baltimore, the state’s largest city, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will attend ceremonies at City Hall.

Same-sex couples celebrated the first equal marriages in the state of Maine on the 29 December.