When President Barack Obama stopped in Baltimore yesterday he mentioned two issues likely to be far more contentious here than his own re-election: Same-sex marriage and rights for illegal immigrants.
Speaking at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, the president made direct comments about the expected battle over Maryland's new same-sex marriage law. The law does not take effect until Jan. 2013, and opponents have gathered more than enough signatures needed to put the issue to voters in November.
"We’re moving forward to a country where we treat everybody fairly and everybody equally, with dignity and respect," Obama said according to a transcript of the speech. "And here in Maryland, thanks to the leadership of committed citizens and Governor O’Malley, you have a chance to reaffirm that principle in the voting booth in November. It’s the right thing to do."
Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage in May. These were his first public comments about Maryland's upcoming fight.
Activists trying to uphold the law believe Obama's support is helping them make inroads with African-Americans, who make up about a quarter of the electorate in Maryland and have traditionally been cool to the issue.
After mentioning the marriage bill, Obama pivoted to another hot button topic.
"It’s time to stop denying citizenship to responsible young people just because they’re children of undocumented immigrants," Obama said.
"You know, this country is at its best when we harness the God-given talents of every individual, when we hear every voice, when we come together as one American family and we’re all striving for the same American Dream."
Marylanders are set to vote in November a new Maryland law that gives tuition breaks to some illegal immigrants attending state colleges and universities.