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Popular Topics in Social Sciences
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Topics In the News
Historic Election Night: The Marriage Questions
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 11/07/12
Last updated on: 11/07/12
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On November 6, 2012, voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington state voted in favor of marriage equality, while voters in Minnesota rejected a ban on same-sex marriage and voters in Iowa refused to recall a member of the state's supreme court because he joined an opinion that established marriage equality in the state. In addition to re-electing the first American President to endorse marriage equality while in office, voters also validated the equal love of gay and lesbian couples.

Maine voters made history by being the first in the nation to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. Question 1, a voter referendum on a citizen-initiated state statute, asked: "Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?" By a 54-46 margin, voters said yes.

In a victory speech in Portland, Matt McTighe, campaign manager of Mainers United for Marriage, said, "Supporters from Portland to Presque Isle thought that truth and love are more powerful than fear and deception."

Gay and lesbian couples in Maine will be able to marry by early January 2013.

Maryland's Question 6 was a referendum on the marriage equality legislation that was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Martin O'Malley earlier this year. It was approved by the voters on November 6 by a 52-48 margin.

Same-sex marriages in Maryland will become legal on January 1, 2013.

The success in Maryland, with its large cadre of African-American voters, suggests that there may have been a considerable shift in attitudes toward same-sex marriage on the part of African Americans. Question 6 benefited greatly from the endorsement of the NAACP, civil rights icons like Julian Bond, and African-American clergy.

Washington state's Referendum 74 asked voters whether they approve or reject the marriage equality legislation passed by the legislature earlier this year.

Although ballots in Washington state have not been fully tabulated, it appears that Referendum 74 will be passed by a 52-48 margin.

As the returns came in Tuesday night, state Senator Ed Murray, primary sponsor of Washington's marriage equality legislation, said, "We celebrate tonight not the victory of one set of Washingtonians over another; instead, we celebrate the belief that all families should be treated fairly.

"We celebrate those who over the decades, despite scorn and discrimination, built this movement and made this day possible," he added.

If the referendum is approved, same-sex couples in Washington state may marry as early as December 6, 2012.

Minnesota's Amendment 1 would have added a section to Article XIII of the Minnesota Constitution that limits the status of marriage to opposite-sex couples: "only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota."

Luckily, voters rejected the amendment. With over 90% of the ballots counted, the amendment garnered only 47% of the vote.

Openly gay state Senator Scott Dibble, a leading opponent of the marriage amendment, appeared at a St. Paul victory party with his husband, Richard; the couple were married in California, but are "legal strangers in Minnesota."

Dibble said, "This is about love. I love this man more than I can say, and I'm happier than I can express that I get to spend life with him."

The election result does not change Minnesota law but it means the state constitution will not include language defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

However, in the November 6, 2012, the Democratic Farmer Labor party took control of the Legislature. Marriage equality proponents are expected to push to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriage.

Finally, in Iowa, Judge David Wiggins, who joined the unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court in 2009 that mandated marriage equality in the state, survived an attempt to remove him from the bench.

Iowa voters, by a 54-46 margin, elected to retain him on the court, thus delivering a blow to anti-gay activists and signalling increased support for same-sex marriage in Iowa.

The results in these races indicate increased support for marriage equality. Voters rejected the tired arguments that had worked in previous elections: that children will be indoctrinated in public schools, that bigots would be persecuted and stifled, and that churches would be forced to sanctify gay marriages.

In rejecting such arguments, voters have dealt a blow to the National Organization for Marriage and other anti-gay groups that have had no scruples about defaming gay people and lying about the effects of equal rights. At the very least, opponents of same-sex marriage will no longer be able to say that marriage equality has never won a popular vote.

In the video below, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin responds to the victories of November 6, 2012.

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