As a young immigrant and a lesbian, Ivette Ramon has two reasons to feel like a she has permanent second-class status.
Both the DREAM Act and same-sex marriage are on November's ballot in Maryland. Supporters of both initiatives are partnering up, hoping that will be enough to win on election day.
Ivette Ramon, 20, is a 2011 graduate of Norwood High School in Silver Spring, and she's undocumented. She was born in Peru, and came into the U.S. at the age of 10, four years after her mother arrived here. After graduation, she received a partial scholarship to Mary Baldwin College in Virginia.
"I was excited and amazed that they offered me that much money, but then the doubts came into my mind, that I had to pay for the other half of the tuition," says Ramon. "Knowing I could not receive any public financial aid, I had to let go of that opportunity."
Around the same time, she came out as a lesbian to her mother.
"She couldn't even look me in the eyes. I thought I had lost my mother at that moment, the most important person in my life," says Ramon.
Ramon and her mother soon reconciled, and she now hopes to go to Montgomery College in Maryland, but she can only afford it at the in-state tuition rate. If voters approve the DREAM Act in November, Ramon and thousands of others like her will be able to do that in Maryland.
Voters will also decide whether Ramon can someday get married in Maryland. She was one of many attending the kick-off of the "Familia Es Familia" campaign sponsored by Casa De Maryland. The executive director of the immigrant services group, Gustavo Torres, says his organization and same-sex advocates are seeking something similar.
"Our focus was and is the DREAM Act," says Torres. "But, this is a reality and a civil rights issue, and similar to the DREAM Act. And that is the reason we are coming together."
Richard Madaleno is the only openly gay state senator in Maryland. The Montgomery County Democrat says if voters reject both the DREAM Act and same-sex marriage at the polls, it will put two groups of people in the state into "permanent second-class status." He praised those like Ramon who have personal ties to both issues for speaking up.
"You know, it's very easy for me, a middle-class white guy to fight for my rights in this country," says Madaleno. "But for you to stand up and risk so much, for you and your family and your community... I can't thank you enough."
Opponents of both measures were able to easily get enough signatures to place both on November's ballot.