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November 16, 2012

A complete sweep: Wins in all 4 state marriage issues on the ballot

Annapolis--The November 6 election may have been, without hyperbole, the most important election for the LGBT community in history.

Voters in three states approved same-sex marriage laws for the first time in an election, another state rejected an anti-marriage amendment, and Iowans retained one of their Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality three years ago.

Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state approved full same-sex marriage laws. Maine’s was an initiative put onto the ballot after voters rejected a marriage equality measure passed by lawmakers in 2009. In the other two states, voters approved marriage laws passed last spring by their legislatures.

Washington’s law goes into effect on December 6; Maine between December 6 and 16, depending on when the governor certifies the election results; and Maryland on New Year’s Day. The election makes these the seventh, eighth and ninth states--plus Washington, D.C.--with marriage equality.

Minnesota voters, on the other hand, dealt only the second ballot box defeat to a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Over 30 states have passed these since 1998, including Ohio in 2004. The most recent was North Carolina last spring. 

Only Arizona has beaten one of these amendments before, when anti-gay groups put forth a measure in 2006 that also barred civil unions like Ohio’s does. But two years later, a marriage-only amendment passed.

The Minnesota marriage ban amendment was defeated 51 percent to 47 percent, in a contest where polls were showing the results too close to call leading up to the election.

In Maine, 53 percent of voters approved same-sex marriage--the same percentage that defeated the 2009 law.   just above the 52 percent that approved it in Maryland. In Washington, the vote was lower to legalize same-sex marriage than to legalize marijuana, but it still matched Maine’s percentages.

The voting in all four states was fairly close to pre-election polling results, which might indicate an end to the gap between pre-election polls on gay issues and the actual votes recorded. In the past, support for pro-gay measures or opposition to anti-gay ones has consistently polled higher than the results at the ballot box, meaning some issues that seemed likely victories instead became stinging defeats.

The evaporation of that gap in polling might give further impetus to the efforts to amend the Ohio constitution to allow same-sex marriage, which, according to a Washington Post poll, now enjoys the support of 52 percent of Ohioans. ThinkProgress listed Ohio as the sixth of seven states that could expand rights for same-sex couples in the near future, citing that poll.

Another issue in this election was the flip side of the thing that drove many of the earlier marriage ban amendments. During the 2004 election, ban amendments were put on the ballots in 11 states to bring out support for George W. Bush’s reelection. This time, however, it was the left that was mobilized by the election. President Barack Obama endorsed the marriage efforts in all four states. He was joined by the NAACP, a combination that ensured high voting for same-sex marriage along with the president in Maryland’s urban areas, including Baltimore and the area around Washington, D.C.

According to the Williams Institute of the University of California-Los Angeles, one-fifth of the U.S. population now lives in one of the nine states and the District of Columbia that allow same-sex marriage. The other states are New York, Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire.

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