Dream Act, same-sex marriage supporters team up -- Gazette.Net


Prominent supporters of two issues facing referendum are joining forces to make sure both measures are upheld in November.

Both the Maryland Dream Act, which offers in-state college tuition to some undocumented immigrants, and a law allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state have been petitioned to the ballot by opponents.

The Familia es Familia [Family is Family] Maryland campaign, scheduled to kick off Tuesday in Langley Park, is an alliance between the immigrant-rights group CASA of Maryland and gay-rights advocates Equality Maryland.

The campaign will focus on the common ground between the communities affected by the two measures. Speakers at Tuesday’s event are expected to include Hispanic lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples as well as gay Dreamers — immigrants who would benefit from the new law.

“We have a unique opportunity to show that Marylanders believe in fairness and that Marylanders believe in family,” Gustavo Torres, CASA’s executive director, said in a statement Thursday. “We will show that we are building economies aimed at the future and communities where everyone is embraced.”

CASA and Equality Maryland found themselves on the same side of several issues in Annapolis this year; the partnership grew from that and was supported by polling data, said Kim Propeack, CASA’s political director.

“There’s a very large overlap in terms of folks who support both issues,” said Propeack, adding that although there may be some who supported only one of the causes, she doubted that one issue would detract from the other.

Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein, president of the Equality Maryland Foundation, said the partnership was intended to create a link between the two issues in voters’ minds.

“We think there is a natural overlap here to make sure that the rights available to some [are] available to all,” Bernstein said.

Both ballot measures are supported by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who will use his recently created federal political action committee to raise money for them, according to a spokesman.

But each has provoked a passionate response from opponents.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance argues that legalizing same-sex marriage will redefine and undermine traditional marriage. Organizations such as Help Save Maryland argue that the Dream Act will lose the state revenue by providing lower tuition costs.

Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland, which describes itself as “dedicated to providing facts regarding illegal aliens who live and/or work in Maryland,” said he was surprised by the announcement of the two issues joining forces. It makes him more inclined to oppose same-sex marriage, he said.

“It seems like more of a step towards lawlessness by the gay and lesbian community than anything else,” said Botwin, adding that it hurt Equality Maryland’s argument to team up with an organization that supports illegal immigrants.

Reactions such as Botwin’s are a common risk to such alliances, said Todd Eberly, professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in St. Mary’s City.

But the two organizations clearly believed that pooling their resources would help each, he said. Ballot issues are confusing, and the partnership could make the arguments easier to digest.

“If you merge two issues into one campaign, you’ve reduced [the] noise and made it easier for people,” he said.