Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley says he believes his state is past civil unions.

An upcoming gay marriage debate was among the topics the 48-year-old Democratic governor discussed during a Tuesday morning appearance on WTOP's Ask the Gov program.

An effort earlier this year to legalize such unions in Maryland ended without a vote in the House after passage in the Senate. While O'Malley pledged to sign the bill into law, he kept a low profile in the debate, saying only that he backed civil unions for gay couples.

In July, after New York became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage, O'Malley announced he would sponsor a renewed effort during the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January.

“I intend to sponsor the bill as part of our legislative package in this session,” O'Malley told host Mark Segraves. “I had made a judgment, Mark, and thought that the place for consensus – the point at which that wave would crest, if you will – was around civil unions. I think we are past that point and I believe that the consensus that needs to be reached is on marital equality rights. And I intend to sponsor that legislation and make it part of our legislative agenda in the upcoming session.”

O'Malley denied that resistance from primarily Black churches in Prince George's County sunk the earlier effort.

“I don't know. I know that's part of it. But there were also a number of different places where votes could have materialized to put it over. Not only in Prince George's County but in other counties, as well.”

And when asked about the chances of passage: “I hope it passes. I think it should pass.”

“I think with every day that goes by I think people become more comfortable with the notion, you know, that laws need to be protected equally in a pluralistic society. And we need to find a way to protect religious freedom. … And sacraments should be left to churches and religious faiths, but a government of laws needs to enforce rights and protect rights equally among all people.” (The audio is embedded in the right panel of this page.)

(Related: Martin O'Malley rejects Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage.)