- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

A recent poll shows that 83 percent of Maryland voters favor legislation that would require most state and local government business to be conducted in English.

The poll by nonpartisan Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies bolsters Maryland lawmakers seeking to make English the official state language.

“For a liberal state like Maryland to have those dramatic numbers makes it clear that we have to have a vote on it,” said Delegate Patrick L. McDonough, Baltimore County Republican, whose bill to make English the official state language was voted down in committee this year. “The legislators should go on record in an election year.”

Mr. McDonough said the public support would aid the legislation when he reintroduces it next year.

But Delegate Marilyn R. Goldwater, vice chairwoman of the Health and Government Operations Committee, which killed the bill, questioned what impact — if any — the poll would have on committee members.

Mrs. Goldwater, Montgomery Democrat, said a poll likely wouldn’t stop her from voting against the bill again.

“[The bill] goes against my grain at the moment, though I do believe people who move to this country and speak a language other than English should make an effort to speak the language of the country they have chosen to come to,” she said.

Gonzales Research conducted the telephone survey of 815 registered voters Oct. 17 to Oct. 21 on behalf of U.S. English Inc., a nonpartisan group advocating English as the nation’s official language.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The poll showed that support for making English the official state language cut across party, race and sex lines in Maryland.

According to the poll, 76 percent of Democrats and 93 percent of Republicans strongly or somewhat favor the legislation, as well 85 percent of whites and 77 percent of blacks, and 86 percent of men and 80 percent of women.

The Democratic-controlled General Assembly has twice passed legislation that would make English the official language. The bills were vetoed in 1994 by then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer and in 1998 by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening, both Democrats.

Mr. Schaefer, now the state comptroller, has since taken a dim view of immigrants who do not learn English.

Last year he drew criticism from pro-immigration groups when he complained about fast-food restaurant workers who could not speak the language.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, supported the comptroller’s remarks, saying multiculturalism is “bunk.”

The governor typically does not comment on pending legislation, but he has voiced support for promoting the assimilation of immigrants.

Last month, Mr. Ehrlich told political science students at Towson University that “the goal is assimilation. It’s not separation.”

“Such legislation is necessary to bring America together,” said Rob Toonkel of U.S. English Inc.

“We all want to be a multicultural and diverse society. That’s great,” he said. “But when we do not assimilate [immigrants], we have situations such as the one that is occurring in France.”

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