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Md. Marriage Equality Could End Up On Ballot With State's Dream Act

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WASHINGTON -- If Maryland lawmakers approve a marriage equality bill during the upcoming legislative session, opponents of same-sex marriage have pledged to organize a petition initiative and put it before voters during November's general election.

If that happens, marriage equality in Maryland may end up on the same ballot as the state's Dream Act, which gives in-state tuition to college students living in the United States illegally.

As the Gazette reports, there are worries that a ballot referendum combination of marriage equality and the Dream Act could send both measures down in flames.

But such a ballot scenario could also drum up liberal support for both in a heavily Democratic state:

"[You] would have two liberal groups out trying to drum up support for both of those," [Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research director Donald F.] Norris said.

A weak Republican presidential candidate in 2012 also could ensure a referendum defeat for both issues, because conservative voters would be more likely to stay home, he said.

The law's chance of surviving a referendum would be higher in 2012, a presidential election year, than in 2014, when state and congressional candidates will be on the ballot, Norris said.

Polling has shown that Maryland residents are split on both same-sex marriage and the Dream Act.

Last year, marriage equality legislation stalled in the state's House of Delegates after being approved by state senators.

This time around, marriage equality proponents in Maryland have greater political momentum, with Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) out in front on the issue and a major public relations effort -- similar to the one that helped get same-sex marriage legislation through the New York state legislature last year -- drumming up public support.

Maryland lawmakers will kick off the 2012 legislative session in Annapolis on Jan. 11.

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