Sarah Brammer-Shlay is a Community Organizer and Avodah Corps Member at Jews United for Justice. The views in this piece are her own and do not represent a GTJ institutional stance.
History was made in our backyard last week. Maryland became the first state to ever win at the ballot box on the issue of tuition equity for undocumented students and, along with Maine and Washington, legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote for the first time ever in the United States.
Gay marriage and immigration are often thought of as two issues where people have strong, firm, and unmovable opinions. Although for some this might be true, education and conversation proved to be key in winning these two civil rights victories.
Jews United for Justice’s “Dream for Equality” campaign worked through the summer and fall to uphold Questions 4 and 6. We worked in order to ensure that Maryland became a more just and inclusive state for immigrants and the GLBT community. Hard work proved that education, conversation, and persistence are vital in creating social change. Volunteers from the Maryland/DC Jewish community reached out to thousands of Maryland voters, specifically Jewish voters, to talk to them about why as Jews they care about these issues.
This election was unique for Maryland. There were seven ballot questions on the ballot in a state accustomed to having few or none. Many voters became overwhelmed by the amount of issues they would be voting on in November and therefore were not always well versed in the issues of marriage equality and tuition equity. Even on Election Day, JUFJ volunteers stood outside of election polls talking to and educating voters on the language of the ballot questions and the importance of voting for Questions 4 and 6.
Marylanders voted to uphold the Maryland DREAM Act and marriage equality in last week’s election, siding with fairness and equality. By passing Question 4, Maryland now provides the opportunity to pay in-state tuition to undocumented students whose parents have paid taxes for the past three years and have graduated from a Maryland high school. Question 6 ended marriage discrimination towards same-sex couples, allowing gay and lesbian couples to obtain civil marriages. Maryland should be proud and our country should be proud.
As a community organizer from Jews United for Justice, I want to thank all of the volunteers who worked so hard on this campaign and helped make history! JUFJ collectively called roughly 7,260 voters, knocked on 800 doors and raised over $6,000 for organizations involved in both questions. Numbers like this do not happen without countless volunteers and long hours put in. Thank you so much.