Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has signed a bill into law that gives same-sex couples legal protections and recognition beginning in 2012.

It makes Delaware the eighth state to allow civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

The Democratic governor signed the civil unions bill Wednesday night before a cheering crowd of more than 600 at The Queen theater Wilmington.

The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2012.

At an event organized by Equality Delaware, Markell said the legislation is a historic moment for the state. He says it serves the greater good to speak out and oppose bias, prejudice or outdated laws that "lessen any one of us."

Markell says that for the children of gay and lesbian parents, the law will recognize their families with equality.