HYATTSVILLE, Md. (AP) - Gay and lesbian advocates teamed up with Maryland's largest Latino and immigrant rights group on Tuesday, hoping to build support for two November ballot questions: one to allow same-sex marriage and another offering in-state tuition for illegal immigrants who have attended a Maryland high school and whose parents have paid taxes.
Equality Maryland, the state's gay and lesbian civil rights group, and Casa de Maryland, held a news conference at Casa's headquarters in Hyattsville with gay immigrants to announce the partnership.
Sen. Richard Madaleno, an openly gay Montgomery County lawmaker, said it's a natural alliance because the measures share the same fundamental reasons for support.
"It's about fairness, and equality and justice," Madaleno, a Democrat, said in an interview after the news conference. "It's about hope, dignity and opportunity and personal responsibility, because an education is about your ability to go out and get that education. No one gives it to you. You have to earn that diploma. Marriage is about personal responsibility. These are potentially the two most important aspects of someone's life."
Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa, said the two groups are coming together to show a united front on two important civil rights issues. He also noted that there are immigrants who are gay.
"For us, it's an issue of families, because familia es familia," Torres said. "We are going to demonstrate that the Latino and immigrant community strongly support both referendums in November 6."
Ivette Roman, a 20-year-old undocumented immigrant from Peru who is a lesbian, said she has worked hard in school since coming to the United States when she was 10, but she has had trouble finding a way to afford higher education since graduating from Northwood High School in Silver Spring in 2011. Roman said she can't get financial aid because she is an illegal immigrant, even though she has lived in this country for about 10 years.
"I'm trying to save up money so that I can attend Montgomery College," Roman said.
Lawmakers passed a same-sex marriage measure this year. The tuition bill was passed last year. Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, has signed both measures. However, opponents of the two measures gathered enough signatures to put them on the ballot for voters to decide.
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