On Tuesday, for the first time ever, same-sex marriage was legalized in states across the country using ballot referendums rather than legislation. Maine, Maryland, and Washington all voted to allow same-sex couples the right to marry in their states.
These three join six others (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York) plus the District of Columbia in legalizing gay marriage. The Human Rights Campaign, an organization working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equal rights, called the election a landmark one for marriage equality. The organization was the largest national funder of all the November 6 ballot initiatives, and in response to the legalization in Maine, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said it is a sign the tide is changing across the United States:
As we celebrate victory tonight we know we have added momentum to ensure that this victory is soon felt in every corner of this country. Poll after poll shows a majority of Americans supporting marriage equality and the numbers continue to grow every single day.
On Tuesday, Minnesota also became the first state to have voters reject a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, after 30 other states had approved such a measure. Gay marriage remains illegal in Minnesota, but since a ban has not been constitutionalized proponents of marriage equality will find an easier path to overthrow the ban. The Democratic Party will also control both state houses as well as the governor's mansion in Minnesota, so there is a possibility legalization may come through legislation.
"This conversation doesn't end tonight. It's only just begun," said Minnesotans United for All Families Campaign Manager Richard Carlbom on Tuesday. "Because we beat this amendment, Minnesota is in a position to ensure that the next generation can participate in the conversation about who can participate in marriage."
Minnesota for Marriage, the group in support of the constitutional ban, said it is not the end of their fight to preserve marriage: "This election is not an end but a beginning," said the group's Chairman John Helmberger. "The groups that have come together to protect the definition of marriage look forward to getting on with the work of restoring a vibrant culture of marriage in our state."
The New York Times called Tuesday's election results "an important step forward" for marriage equality across the country, saying they show clear national evolution on gay marriage:
Even before these victories, the principle of fairness for gay people and their families has been gaining force in courts and statehouses. Half of Americans believe their states should recognize marriages of same-sex couples.
It is a moment for the opponents of civil rights for all Americans—including Congressional Republicans, who are still defending the marriage act in court—to decide whether they want to continue to stand against justice to court a dwindling share of voters.
As of now, states individually decide the legality of gay marriage within their borders, as the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on gay marriage. Yet Tuesday's results show the issue is a relevant one, and the court may not be able to avoid taking up the matter. It may even go so far as to rule on the constitutionality of the U.S. federal ban on gay marriage, the Defense of Marriage Act.
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