MARYLANDERS VOTED Tuesday to fix an unjust and self-defeating system that has denied educational opportunities and a prosperous future to untold thousands of undocumented students. By voting overwhelmingly to extend in-state tuition rate to illegal immigrants — a vote that struck a note for tolerance and common sense — the state became the first in the nation to adopt the Dream Act by popular vote.
Maryland’s Dream Act was propelled onto the state ballot by opponents who arrogantly predicted that native-born and legal residents would never give undocumented students the same leg up their classmates enjoy. One prominent opponent was Del. Patrick L. McDonough, a Baltimore County Republican, who blithely predicted a landslide vote against the Dream Act. He was wrong; it won by a country mile. Marylanders are far more tolerant, and more pragmatic, than he understood.
They proved that tolerance a second time Tuesday, in a vote that was closer but, if anything, more historic. Their approval of same-sex marriage, provided a measure of how far voters have moved in the direction of respecting a minority that was widely shunned and scorned just a couple of decades ago. Although seven states plus the District allow homosexual men and lesbians to marry, none until this year had approved same-sex marriage by popular vote. Maryland’s breaking of that pattern will have wide and beneficial repercussions.
Voters also narrowly approved a proposal to expand gambling. Until this year, no state except California had attracted anything approaching $100 million in spending on a ballot measure — and in California only a few questions have unleashed that kind of cash. This year Maryland, with a population a sixth the size of California’s, reached the same dizzying spending levels. By Election Day, more than $90 million in spending had been recorded for the measure, Question 7, which proposed to add a sixth casino, in Prince George’s County, to the five already authorized. By the time the books close, Question 7 may hit, or exceed, the $100 million mark. It was a sign, among other things, of the rich profits to be made from gambling.
The ballot measure had a lot to do with tax revenue and industry competition, and it was significant for the financial health of the state and Prince George’s County. But the questions on immigrant education and same-sex marriage were about something even more significant. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who worked hard to win approval of both questions, argued that they were both about the value of inclusion. He was right, and it is encouraging that both were approved.