Gay-rights advocates scored major and unprecedented victories at the polls as voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved marriage equality. In Minnesota, voters defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in the state. The amendment is similar to Utah’s Amendment 3.
Nine states—Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia — will have legalized gay marriage. Another 12 states permit domestic partnerships or civil unions, which provide limited rights.
In Maine, approximately 53 percent of voters said they thought gay marriage should be legal, 47 percent opposed the measure. In 2009, the same ballot initiative failed.
Maryland voters decided to keep an existing gay marriage law, which was approved by the state legislature and signed by the governor earlier this year. But marriage equality opponents were able to force a ballot initiative. Marriage equality was approved 52 to 48 percent. Gay marriages will be allowed to start on Jan. 1, 2013.
Gay rights advocates in Washington are declaring victory with more than 50 percent of voters approving marriage equality. Much like Maryland, the state legislature passed a marriage equality bill earlier this year, but opponents were able to force a ballot initiative.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin called the election night an enormous success after President Barack Obama’s reelection, but also for the many ballot wins around the nation.
“Obviously we are elated that our ally-in-chief, President Barack Obama, is returning to the White House for four more years of progress. We have our first openly gay Senator in Tammy Baldwin. We’ve won marriage at the ballot box in Maine and Maryland, Minnesota defeated a discriminatory amendment and we are optimistic about our chances in Washington. We’ve picked up new allies in the House and Senate and have more openly lesbian, gay and bisexual members of Congress than ever before,” Griffin said in a press release. “I hope you’re as fired up as I am at these amazing accomplishments.”
The HRC raised and contributed more than $20 million to re-elect Obama and to advance marriage equality and other electoral priorities this cycle.
A representative from Freedom to Marry, an equality group working in Maine, called the results a success, not just for couples in the Maine, Maryland and Washington, but around the nation.
“Now, because of the work we have done together over the years, gay and lesbian couples will finally be able to marry and celebrate with their families,” said Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson. “And we can all celebrate, too — because this was a big one for the movement to win marriage nationwide.”
The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, which has battled marriage equality around the nation, issued a statement denying defeat.
“Though we are disappointed over these losses, we remain faithful to our mission and committed to the cause of preserving marriage as God designed it. Marriage is a true and just cause, and we will never abandon the field of battle just because we experienced a setback. There is much work to do, and we begin that process now,” said Brian Brown, president of NOM. “Americans remain strongly in favor of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The election results reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in these very liberal states.”
However, recent polling by several organizations, including Gallup and CNN, indicate most Americans approve of marriage equality. One recent CNN poll indicates 54 percent of Americans would support legalizing same-sex marriage.