“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Those, of course, are some of the famous words from a sonnet by poet Emma Lazarus that graces the Statue of Liberty. If something unforeseen, such as sea-level rise, necessitates moving the landmark from New York Harbor one day, Maryland could be the perfect landing spot. Especially after Tuesday’s election.
Through two vote outcomes in particular, Maryland secured its reputation as a progressive state where many people of different backgrounds can coexist and even thrive. The two issues were same-sex marriage and the so-called Dream Act.
Maryland joined Maine as the first two states in the Union to approve marriage equality via a popular vote. “I’m so thankful to the thousands of people who came together on the right side of history today,” said a clearly ecstatic state Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park, who is openly gay. “It took an army of every age, race faith, background, and political party to get this done, and it’s a proud day for all of us.”
While the issue remains sensitive for opponents — the vote was close and in doubt until around midnight, with 51.9 percent supporting it and 48.1 percent opposed — the strong support among young people clearly indicates that societal attitudes are changing rapidly. In a relatively few years, it’s likely that the public will look back and ask, “What was the big deal?”
On the Dream Act, which will allow some children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Maryland public institutions of higher learning, the state joins 11 others that have similar policies in place. The end result of voter approval very well could benefit the state fiscally, if the college graduates stay and can earn good-paying jobs. However, questions accompanied the issue — and some remain, especially regarding costs — pointing to the need for wide-scale federal immigration reform.
Maryland did stray from a straight progressive line, however, when it came to expanded gaming. Concerns about gambling addiction and preying on a vulnerable segment of the population who can least afford to lose their money took a back seat when voters approved a sixth casino for the state, to be built in Prince George’s County, and table games for all the facilities. Prince George’s voters, who could have rejected a casino at National Harbor, ended up voting for it, likely thinking of the promised jobs that will be created and the possibility — no matter how slim — of additional education funding.
Whether a National Harbor site and table games brings in more money, particularly from Virginia gamblers, remains to be seen. At the very least, revenue-hungry casino owners are happy — they get to keep more of their proceeds in exchange for a competing casino as well as their desired table games.