Four states vote to allow same-sex marriage

Story posted November 7, 2012 in Election 2012 by Luke Petkac and Kelsey Myers.

It was a great Election Day for supporters of same-sex marriage.

By midnight Tuesday, voters in Maine and Maryland had either voted to approve allowing couples of the same gender to get married, while voters in Minnesota rejected a proposal to ban same-sex marriage by a constitutional amendment. Same-sex marriage is prohibited by statute in Minnesota.

Voters in the state of Washington were expected to follow suit in a referendum to allow same sex marriage, although counting of mail-in ballots may not be completed for a few days.

As of 11:55 p.m. Tuesday, 52 percent of voters were in favor of accepting the referendum in Maine (40 percent reporting), 52 percent of voters were in favor in Maryland (84 percent reporting), 49 percent of voters were in favor in Minnesota (37 percent reporting) and 52 percent were in favor in Washington (50 percent reporting).

Various polls leading up to the election showed that supporters of same-sex marriage had large leads in Maine and Washington, and that voters were split in Maryland and Minnesota.

The acceptance in Maryland, Maine and Washington marks the first time in history that same-sex marriage has been legalized by ballot measure. There have been 32 previous ballot initiatives similar to the ones voted upon on Tuesday. All 32 were voted down.

Courts have granted permission for same-sex marriage in the states where it is already allowed.

Prior to Tuesday's vote, Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center in Harrisburg, said that his organization is pleased with the progression of same-sex rights.

“We are in support of other statewide organizations trying to move LGBT civil rights movements forward,” Martin said. 

He also said that these referendums will make a huge difference.

“There are four of them and even if just one of them passes, it will be the first time that people state-wide will vote in favor of marriage equality,” Martin said.

He said that he hoped that for the first time, the voting would actually show what the majority of people are thinking -- which he said is in support of marriage equality.

Dan Barkowiak, the director of Pennsylvania for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, also said that the referendums will make a big difference because they allow the people's voice to be heard.

Like Minnesota and many states, Pennsylvania bans same-sex marriage by law. Those who support constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage say the constitutional provisions make the bans more likely to be held up by court challenges.

“Ultimately we feel [for Pennsylvania] that people will have a say in what marriage is and what they want marriage to be, but we want people to have that say and not just have government and a few officials make the rules,” Barkowiak said.

However, he also said that the majority of voters, at least in Pennsylvania, are not in support of same-sex marriage.

“Pennsylvania's stance on gay marriage is what the majority of the people want,” Barkowiak said. “We are committed to keeping marriage between one man and one woman.”

Martin said that it is unlikely that similar laws will ever pass or be accepted by elected officials in Pennsylvania.

“All of the four states that we are talking about don’t have statewide defense of marriage acts like Pennsylvania, so I think the chances for something like this happening in Pennsylvania are pretty slim,” Martin said. “I think the courts will take care of it for Pennsylvania before elected officials or the voters take care of it.”