Date: November 08 2012
Voters in Maine and Maryland on Tuesday approved same-sex marriage on a day of election results that jubilant gay rights advocates called a historic turning point, the first time marriage for gay men and lesbians has been approved at the ballot box.
In Minnesota, in another first, voters rejected a proposal to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, a measure that has been enshrined in the constitutions of 30 states. A state law barring same-sex marriage remains on the books there, but with the defeat of the amendment, the door remains open to change by the legislature or the courts.
While six states and the District of Columbia have legalised same-sex marriage through judicial or legislative decisions, voters had rejected it more than 30 times in a row.
Final results in Washington, the fourth state voting on Tuesday on marriage equality, were still coming in, but with half the votes reported, the proposal to legalise gay marriage had a small majority.
Rights groups said the victories were an important sign that public opinion was shifting in their direction.
"We have made history for marriage equality by winning our first victory at the ballot box," said Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, which raised millions of dollars for the measures in the four states.
In another sign of shifting public attitudes, a drive by social conservatives in Iowa to unseat David Wiggins, one of seven State Supreme Court justices who voted unanimously in 2007 to legalise same-sex marriage, fell short. Only two years ago, three other justices who faced similar electoral challenges were voted out as conservatives, backed by out-of-state donations, argued that the court had overstepped its role.
Speaking on Tuesday night from a victory party in Portland, Maine, Matt McTighe, the campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, said, "A lot of families in Maine just became more stable and secure."
By Wednesday, with 78 per cent of the vote in, the count stood at 53.4 per cent voting yes, and 46.6 per cent voting no.
In Baltimore, supporters of Maryland's referendum danced and cheered as balloons filled the air.
"I'm so elated right now," said Mary Bruce Leigh, 32. "This is the civil rights issue of our time, and we have succeeded in Maryland."
With nearly all the vote counted by Wednesday, the tally in Maryland was 52 per cent for same-sex marriage and 48 per cent against.
It has been a constant theme of opponents of same-sex marriage that whenever the issue has been put before voters it has lost. In 30 states, voters have limited marriage to a man and a woman through constitutional amendments, and same-sex marriage has also been blocked in referendums such as those in California in 2008 and Maine in 2009.
This year, the legislatures in Washington and Maryland approved same-sex marriage, but opponents gathered enough signatures to force Tuesday's referendums. In Maine, since their defeat in 2009, gay rights advocates have been cultivating public opinion in one-on-one conversations, and this year sponsored a repeat election and reversal of the verdict.
In the final week of the campaign, the opponents of same-sex marriage, mainly financed by the National Organisation for Marriage and the Roman Catholic Church, mounted a barrage of advertising and telephone appeals in all four states, trying to convince undecided voters that "redefining marriage" would force schools to "teach gay marriage" and require businesses and churches to violate religious principles.
Rights groups have denounced those messages as misleading scare tactics and say they do not seek to redefine marriage but to end discrimination.
For many weeks, reflecting their more than threefold advantage in fundraising nationwide, advocates of same-sex marriage have unleashed advertisements of their own in which community members say that gay and lesbian friends deserve the same chance to love and marry that others enjoy.
The New York Times
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