The Maryland State Bar Association announced its support Thursday of a same-sex marriage bill sponsored by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), following what the organization said was an “overwhelming” vote by its board of governors.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) speaks in support of a same-sex marriage bill during a news conference in front of supporters in Annapolis on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

“I could not be prouder of our endorsement of this bill,” Henry E. Dugan Jr., president of the State Bar, said in a statement.

Dugan said the bill is “protective of religious sensibilities and prerogatives” and also “emphatically extends those civil rights embodied in our fundamental belief that ‘all men are created equal’ — and not simply ‘all heterosexual persons are created equal’— to our entire citizenry.”

Opponents, including the Maryland Catholic Conference, are also gearing up for another fight over the legislation. The Catholic Conference this week called the bill a distraction from “more pressing”issues before the General Assembly.

A similar same-sex marriage bill passed the Senate last year but fell short in the House of Delegates. Advocates are hopeful that O’Malley’s decision to sponsor the legislation will improve its chances this year.

Last year’s bill was endorsed by the State Bar’s Family Law Section, a spokesman said, but it was not brought to a vote by the organization’s board of governors.