Maryland, Maine, Washington approve gay marriage

NEW YORK Wed Nov 7, 2012 4:42pm EST

Keesha Patterson of Ft. Washington, Maryland (bottom) proposes marriage to her girlfriend Rowan Ha (C) during the election night victory rally at re-elected President Barack Obama headquarters in Chicago, November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Keesha Patterson of Ft. Washington, Maryland (bottom) proposes marriage to her girlfriend Rowan Ha (C) during the election night victory rally at re-elected President Barack Obama headquarters in Chicago, November 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington state approved same-sex marriage on Tuesday, marking the first time marriage rights have been extended to same-sex couples by popular vote.

The vote was hailed as a watershed moment by gay rights activists. While same-sex unions have been legalized in six states and the District of Columbia by lawmakers or courts, voters had consistently rejected doing so. Voters in more than 30 states have approved constitutional bans on gay marriage.

"We made history and sent a powerful message that we have truly reached a tipping point on gay and lesbian civil rights in this country," said Brian Ellner, head of the pro-gay marriage group The Four. "By winning for the first time on marriage at the ballot box, we made clear what national polls already show — that Americans support fairness and equality for all families."

President Barack Obama this year became the first U.S. president to support gay marriage. His campaign endorsed the gay marriage measures in the three states.

In Maryland, the measure passed 52 percent to 48 percent. In Maine, voters supported the proposal 53 percent to 47 percent, with 75 percent of precincts reporting. And in Washington, a gay marriage measure was approved 52 percent to 48 percent.

Voters in Minnesota rejected a proposal that would have defined marriage solely as a heterosexual union. The constitutional amendment failed 48 percent to 52 percent.

In all four states, the marriage equality effort did better in urban areas and were less popular among rural voters.

The constitutionality of restricting marriage to unions between a man and a woman is widely expected to be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court soon.

James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, called the votes a "watershed moment" for gay and lesbian families.

"Not long ago, marriage for same-sex couples was unimaginable," he said. "In a remarkably short time, we have seen courts start to rule in favor of the freedom to marry, then legislatures affirm it, and now the people vote for it as well."


Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage - the leading group opposing same-sex marriage - said those favoring so-called traditional marriage had been outspent by a margin of at least 4 to 1.

"Our opponents and some in the media will attempt to portray the election results as a changing point in how Americans view gay marriage, but that is not the case," Brown said in a statement. "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."

In Massachusetts, Iowa and Connecticut, laws followed court rulings that same-sex couples could not be denied marriage rights. Legislatures approved the change in Vermont, New York and New Hampshire.

Before this year, ballot initiatives banning the legal recognition of same-sex marriage had succeeded in 31 states, and no state had ever approved same-sex marriage by popular vote.

Maine voters rejected gay marriage in a referendum in 2009 by 53 to 47 percent. In Washington and Maryland, where state legislatures previously passed laws expanding marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples, it was up to citizens to decide whether to let the laws stand.

"Over these past few weeks, Marylanders joined together to affirm that for a free and diverse people of many faiths - a people committed to religious freedom - the way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights and human dignity of all," Governor Martin O'Malley said in a statement.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Stacey Joyce)

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Comments (7)
This is a bad, sad day for our Society. The 2% (?) of our Nation, with the help of the media and entertainment have blind sided our Society and Civilization for an entity that can’t be defined and produces nothing. At this rate, even the Supreme Court will be mesmerized with its novelty that common logical thinking will be cast to the wind. It will come to the point that the Justices will rule in favor of the status quo, and not disrupt the many lives affected. Pity.

Nov 07, 2012 1:53am EST  --  Report as abuse
Kevin73 wrote:
Attitudes are changing. The realization that all human beings deserve the same rights regardless of race, sex, or sexual orientation is setting in. And battle after battle, the war against the charismatic personalities and archaic traditions that retard our evolution both as a nation and as human beings, is being won. The nation is moving, if slowly, in the right direction.

Nov 07, 2012 1:59am EST  --  Report as abuse
I am amazed that the bigger question still hasn’t been asked. That is, why is the government in the business of marriages? Instead of determining who can or cannot be legally married, why not just disregard the institutionalization of it and leave it with the individual communities and their churches where it belongs? Equality of liberty is what you want, not that fake equality that government advertises and subjects people to through force.

Nov 07, 2012 8:34am EST  --  Report as abuse
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