Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said Friday that he is leaning toward sponsoring a bill next year to allow same-sex marriage in Maryland, a move that gay-rights advocates have been urging.


O’Malley (D) expressed support for a gay nuptials bill that fell short during this year’s legislative session, but his lobbying efforts were largely limited to private conversations with lawmakers.

In the wake of New York’s recent embrace of same-sex marriage, gay legislators and other advocates in Maryland have been pressing O’Malley to play a far move visible role next year, including making the bill part of his formal legislative package.

“I’m certainly leaning that way,” O’Malley said during an interview in Salt Lake City, where he is attending a meeting of the National Governors Association “There are some bills that sometimes require a governor to push them to get them over the goal line, and it could well be true of this one. ... All of us are going to have to work a lot harder.”

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was widely credited with passage of a same-sex marriage bill in a divided legislature after a very high-profile lobbying effort.

“I think New York showed us all that a consensus was possible on this, and this issue continues to evolve at a fast pace in the hearts and minds of citizens,” O’Malley said.

He said his office is studying exemptions for religious organizations that were contained in New York’s legislation with an eye toward strengthening similar measures that were included in Maryland’s bill this year. O’Malley did not cite any specifics.

Maryland’s bill passed the Senate this year but did not come to a vote in the full House of Delegates, where supporters said they were a couple votes short.

During this year’s debate, several delegates grew uneasy about the legislation as black churches in Prince George’s County and other foes, including the Catholic Church, stepped up their opposition.

The bill was also a hard sell among some Democrats in more conservative districts in Southern Maryland and the Baltimore suburbs, and only one Republican in the legislature supported the measure.

Advocates on both sides are gearing up for another fight in the next 90-day legislative session, which starts in January.