The groups fighting over Maryland ballot measures that would legalize same-sex marriage and uphold the Maryland Dream Act are kicking off a new advertising push just three weeks before Election Day.

Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the main committee backing gay marriage, released its first television ad in the Washington market Monday. The 30-second spot, which Federal Communications Commission filings show is running on local NBC affiliate WRC, features NAACP Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond.

The campaign already has two ads running in the Baltimore area, and there are more planned for Washington and Baltimore in the coming weeks, said spokesman Kevin Nix. The campaign has spent $1.7 million on ads, campaign finance documents show.

Also on Monday, Educating Maryland Kids, the committee backing the Maryland Dream Act, released ads running on cable TV in the Baltimore area. The campaign plans to launch ads in the Washington area next Monday, said spokeswoman Kristin Ford, spending about $1 million on ads in all.

And the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposes gay marriage, nearly doubled its spending on advertising last week from about $473,000 to approximately $900,000, said Executive Director Derek McCoy. The campaign has three or four television ads already running in the Baltimore and Washington areas, he said.

The amount of money being spent on the ballot issues compares with the money that gubernatorial candidates used to spend campaigning, said Todd Eberly, a political science and public policy professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland. But the campaigns on the two issues are being overshadowed by the $40 million poured into advertising by the groups fighting over gambling expansion in the state.

In fact, that's one reason why Educating Maryland Kids has turned to cable channels -- broadcast air time was sold out, Ford said.

That isn't surprising, especially in the Washington area, where ads on the Virginia Senate race and the presidential race are running constantly, Eberly said. "All of the good spots, I'm sure, are claimed."

The crowded airwaves put particular pressure on advocates of the Dream Act, he said.

"When it comes to same-sex marriage, I don't think there are a lot of people who don't understand what the issue is about," he said. "The orphan child in all of this is the Dream Act ... the one where people really need to be informed."