The Vote and the Jewish Stance:
In November 2012, Marylanders were asked to vote on two critical social justice issues. Marriage equality for LGBTQ couples and tuition equity for undocumented residents (allowing them to pay in-state tuition rates for higher education) were put to a popular vote. The Jewish community asserted that we stand for equal rights and opportunities for all. This commitment resulted in victory at the polls!
The Maryland DREAM Act enables Maryland-raised undocumented high school graduates to pay in-state tuition for college. The bill makes it possible for all young people, regardless of their immigration status, to live out the American dream.
Why was it important? The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition in Maryland is nearly $20,000. By placing this burden on the DREAMers, who are ineligible for federal loans and grants, society only further constricts them in the working class cycle they and their families are stuck in. This Act allowed them to attain a higher education and live out the American Dream everyone strives for.
The Civil Marriage Protection Act brought equality to civil marriage in Maryland and extended the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples, ending discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Why was it important? By limiting LGBQT couples to civil unions, the old law excluded them from important rights and privileges held by married couples. Some of the rights and privileges not applicable to civil unions include making decisions for or even visiting a sick spouse in the hospital, sharing economic burdens without tax penalties, and filing important legal documents such as life insurance and lawsuits for one another.
Why JUFJ Cares:
We, as Americans, believe all people are guaranteed basic rights before the law and we have a civic duty to vote when this right is tested. No one should be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or heritage.
We, as Jews, value equality. The book of Numbers, among other texts and traditions, writes that we are to apply the same law to all people living in our communities. Both the Maryland DREAM Act and the Civil Marriage Protection Act work to give the same rights to all members of the Maryland community.
The Results Are In…
… And it was a close fight. Opponents of these laws petitioned to place them both on the ballot, in effect, putting people’s basic rights up to a popular vote. Polls indicated that Marylanders were closely split on each of these critical issues so every vote mattered.
Marriage equality won by a 52.4%-47.6% margin; tuition equity won 58.9%-41.1%.
A large majority of the Jewish community supported both these measures but we continued to educate and engage both the Jewish and greater Maryland community. We worked in congregations and Jewish communities to educate and build the strength we needed to turn out voters and win in November. Our efforts to protect equal rights and opportunities for everyone in Maryland were crucial to the passing of these acts.
Click here for a downloadable version of FAQs about these Acts and why JUFJ got involved.
Click here to read a sermon on how the Torah supports marriage equality.