Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley told gay marriage backers on Wednesday that the issue is about equal rights.

O'Malley, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler were recognized for their support by Equality Maryland, the state's largest gay rights group, during a fundraiser at the Jane E. Lawton Center in Chevy Chase.

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

“This is about making sure that every family in Maryland is able to raise their children in a loving and stable home, a home that is respected equally under the law,” O'Malley said, the AP reported.

The 48-year-old Democratic governor backed an earlier effort this year which stalled out in the House of Delegates after passage in the Senate. While O'Malley pledged to sign the bill into law, he kept a low profile as lawmakers debated the bill, saying only that he backed civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

Brown and Gansler told attendees to prepare for a protracted political fight that might continue after the bill becomes law.

“It's not a done deal,” Gansler, a Democrat, said. “We need to work hard, but I'm confident that will happen.”