Maryland First Lady Katie O'Malley has blamed “cowards” for last year's defeat of a gay marriage bill, gay weekly The Washington Blade reported.

O'Malley made her remarks Thursday at the annual Creating Change conference sponsored by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.

Speaking to a crowd at the Baltimore Hilton, O'Malley said, “We didn't expect the things that happened in the House of Delegates to occur, but sadly they did, and there were some cowards that prevented it from passing.”

The bill fizzled in the House last year after winning the Senate's approval. A campaign against the bill focused mostly on objections from Christian conservatives.

Governor Martin O'Malley had said he would sign the legislation if it reached his desk, but kept the issue at an arm's length.  After last year's session ended, O'Malley pledged to make marriage equality a priority during this year's session and make it part of his administration's 2012 legislative package.

Mrs. O'Malley added that religion should not determine civil rights laws.

“We're all very diverse and that's what makes us strong, but religion should never play a part in what the laws of our state are, and that's what we're trying to convey to religious leaders who are opponents of the bill,” she said.

Speaking Tuesday, the governor emphasized that his bill strikes a “balance” between individual rights and religious freedom.