When Maryland voters take to the polls on or before Election Day Nov. 6, they will face a number of decisions beyond candidates seeking office. There are seven questions on the statewide ballot covering such issues as qualifications of orphan court judges, suspension and removal of elected officials from office and in-state university tuition rates for undocumented immigrants.
Two questions that have garnered considerable attention [and millions of advertising dollars] concern same-sex marriage and the expansion of gaming in Maryland.
Question 6 on the ballot is the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which allows gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license as well as protects clergy from having to perform any marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs.
Last week Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker expressed his support for the measure and said he planned to vote in favor of it. Baker has kept his views on the question private until last week when he was a guest on Kojo Nnamdi's radio talk show on WAMU 88.5 FM.
Baker said marriage equality is a "civil rights issue."
Debate over the question has been ongoing for months. Marylanders for Marriage Equality has been campaigning to "defend marriage equality" and is in favor of Question 6.The Maryland Marriage Alliance is opposed to "any effort, which would redefine marriage in our state law as a union between any two persons."
While several members of the clergy have come out against the same-sex marriage question, others support it. Last week a group of clergy held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., voicing their support for the measure. The Rev. Delman Coates, senior pastor of the 7,500-member Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., and the Rev. Al Sharpton also attended the press conference. Coates said "in a real sense this is about preserving our democracy." Sharpton said the issue "goes beyond the theological debate."
The other hot-button ballot issue is Question 7, whether to expand gaming in Maryland to include live table games such as poker and roulette and to sanction a sixth casino in Prince George's County.
Some individuals and groups claim that supporters of gaming expansion overstate the number of jobs, the amount of revenue that might be generated and whether the revenue will solely go to education. However proponents of Question 7 say approval of the measure will be beneficial to the state, the workforce and education.
Las Vegas casino operator MGM Resorts International moved several of its executives to Prince George's County and opened a storefront office in National Harbor in mid-September to establish a local presence and share information with the community.
The Peterson Companies, developer of National Harbor, and MGM Resorts International reached agreement several months ago on developing a destination resort casino at National Harbor if voters approve the addition of a sixth casino.
To review the questions that will be on the November ballot, visit http://www.elections.state.md.us/elections/2012/ballot_question_language.html.