In a move that made some in his own party uneasy, he wrote a letter in 2005 to the editor of his local newspaper arguing that HIV-positive patients should be tattooed "in a spot covered by a bathing suit" before being given life-saving medications. The mark would serve as a warning so potential sex partners would not unknowingly become infected, Parrott said.
"An effective way to enforce the consistency of the tattoo would be to provide medicine to the infected individual only after they have received the HIV tattoo," he wrote in the letter.
Parrott said he has since abandoned the idea because advances in medicine have made the disease more treatable.
The delegate discussed his philosophy and petition successes recently in temporary offices rented by MDPetitions.com, home of the organization he set up to run petition drives.
The office, a former Centra Bank branch on the outskirts of Hagerstown, was decorated with signs highlighting the boundaries of the new congressional map the Democrats drew. (Parrott said the most effective way of convincing people to sign a petition against the map is simply to show it to them.)
He sat with his wife, April, while their daughters, Patience, 9, and Charity, 8, played nearby. The Parrotts also have a son, Neilson, 6. The family is a familiar presence in Annapolis. Since the children are home-schooled, the whole family moves to the state capital for the three-month General Assembly session so the kids can learn about the legislative process.
The couple met in church when both were living in Anne Arundel County. They are both devout Christians and describe their faith as "nondenominational."
When the couple met, Parrott was working as a traffic engineer with the Maryland Highway Administration in Annapolis. They moved to Western Maryland, where Parrott now runs Traffic Solutions Inc., a consulting company.
The couple recalled their first brush with Maryland's referendum process seven years ago, after the General Assembly passed a package of bills extending some legal rights to gay couples.
The measures protected gays from hate crimes. It is also gave unmarried couples, gay and straight, medical decision-making rights and allowed property transfers among such partners without paying state or local taxes. A fourth law required schools to report bullying.
Conservatives mounted an effort to repeal all four measures, and Parrott — a private citizen who had never run for office — offered to be the Washington County coordinator.
He recorded an automated call asking supporters to gather at a church to sign petitions. To make it easier for people to figure out which ones they'd signed, Parrott printed petition forms for each law on different-colored paper.
The effort wasn't enough, falling short of the initial state threshold of turning in one-third of the necessary signatures. "Around the state, the organization just didn't get together as much as it needed to," Parrott said. "If it is going to be successful, there need to be a lot of people involved."
Parrott also learned another lesson: The state's Board of Elections, which provides the final approval on petitions, has strict criteria for signatures it will accept. That made him realize there needed to be a better way of making sure people were signing their names the same way they'd registered to vote.
He didn't immediately pursue more referendum issues, instead turning to national politics. After Barack Obama was elected president and "everything bad happened," Parrott said, he started organizing busloads of people to go to Washington to protest Obama's health care law.
He and his wife also put together the first Hagerstown tea party rally, in April 2009. They drove in pouring rain to a Hagerstown square, expecting a few dozen people to show up, at best. They found 300.
Three months later, Parrott decided to run for an open delegate seat. He met with four people considering entering the race and convinced them to drop out. Then he crushed his single opponent in the GOP primary, taking more than 80 percent of the vote.
In November 2010, he easily beat his Democratic opponent, who declined to be interviewed for this article. In January 2011, Parrott started his career in Annapolis, one of 43 Republicans in a chamber of 141.
He kept a close eye on last year's same-sex marriage debate and began meeting with the Board of Elections to figure out how he might challenge such a law at the ballot box. When the measure failed to win suppport in the House of Delegates, Parrott put the petition effort aside.
But then the DREAM Act passed near the end of the 2011 session. Parrott was astounded — and posted a message on his Facebook page. "Do you think we should try to get the signatures to take this to referendum so that the people can decide?" he wrote.
Within minutes, 26 supportive comments came back. He decided to do it.
Now — with the potential to defeat that and two other laws in November — he's taking some time with his family to decide how he can best be involved in the statewide campaigns.
"We are going to pray about it," Parrott said. "Ideally I won't be involved at all. This is the time to let the people vote."
But after pausing for a moment, he added: "We do have to be sure they have the correct information."
twitter.com/annielinskey Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts