Standing with House and Senate supporters, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced this afternoon that he will lead the charge for gay marriage in Maryland and put his name on a bill that allows same-sex couples to wed.
"Marylanders of all walks of life want their children to live in a loving, stable, committed home protected under the law," O'Malley said. He said it would be one of "a small handful" of legislative priorities.
The governor was supportive of same-sex marriage last year, but stayed mostly in the background. Today's announcement was rumored for weeks, with chatter increasing after a gay marriage bill was signed into law in New York.
O'Malley said he hopes to learn from the New York effort and spoke admiringly about the religious protections offered by that law, though he did not offer any specific changes that he might make.
The Maryland Catholic Conference immediately issued a statement calling the governor's decision "regrettable." "The moral and social impacts of redefining marriage would be pervasive and severe," according to the statement.
A same-sex marriage bill passed out of Maryland's Senate last session. But it was withdrawn from the House of Delegates when leaders determined it was a few votes shy of passage.
O'Malley tasked his top lobbyist, Joseph C. Bryce, with spearheading the effort to move the bill in 2012. Bryce, a well respected Annapolis aide, will coordinate the new Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition and develop a strategy to garner additional votes.