Maryland Dream Act, gay marriage advocates join forces

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Local,Maryland,Rachel Baye

Advocates of the Maryland Dream Act and same-sex marriage are teaming up to gain support for both issues before they are decided by voters in November.

Next week, immigrant rights group Casa de Maryland and gay rights group Equality Maryland are launching Familia es Familia -- meaning Family is Family -- Maryland, a campaign to get supporters for both issues among those who already plan to vote for one of them.

The collaboration is a logical one because both same-sex marriage and the Dream Act, which would grant in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants who attended high school in Maryland, are "about fairness and about equity," and about benefiting families, said Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein, president of the Equality Maryland Foundation Board of Directors.

There is also overlap between supporters of both issues because there are many residents who would benefit, or whose family members would benefit, from both passing, she said.

"We have 'Dreamers,' as we call them, who are members of the LGBT community, so there is absolutely an overlap there," Bernstein said.

A Casa representative could not be reached for comment.

This kind of collaboration is also logical because supporters of both are likely fairly liberal, said Paul Herrnson, director of the University of Maryland's Center for American Politics and Citizenship.

"Those calls don't even have to be message-oriented," Herrnson said, explaining that the two groups of advocates can be helpful to one another simply by mobilizing voters to show up to the polls or to get absentee ballots.

But not all advocates for one issue are going to be able to support the other.

The Maryland Catholic Conference, for example, has been active in mobilizing Catholics across the state to support the Maryland Dream Act as part of a coalition of faith-based groups, while simultaneously mobilizing voters to oppose same-sex marriage. And the new joint campaign between Casa and Equality Maryland doesn't change that.

"The church is not Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative," said Catholic Conference spokeswoman Kathy Dempsey. "We have a unique challenge in being in support of one and in opposition to the other."

Some voters say the newly formed coalition will actually hurt both causes.

Brad Botwin, a Derwood resident who heads the group Help Save Maryland, which is opposed to the Dream Act, said he is on the fence about whether to legalize same-sex marriage -- and probably would have voted in favor of it. But now he might not. "I just was surprised that [Equality Maryland] would join forces with Casa," he said. "It just kind of weakened their cause."

But Herrnson said Botwin's view is most likely not the norm since many voters won't even know the two groups are working together. "You're not going to see a TV ad that puts the two of them together," he said.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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Rachel Baye

Staff Writer - Education
The Washington Examiner