Love for All: Marriage Equality Triumphs in Maine, Maryland, Washington, Minnesota

Historic votes may shift national tide, supporters say

Supporters of marriage equality and equal civil rights had much to celebrate in both Maine and Maryland Tuesday night as historic victories took place in both states.

Early returns in Washington State show that voters there have also passed a same-sex marriage initiative.

And in Minnesota, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have enshrined the state's existing ban on same-sex marriage in the State Constitution.

Maine becomes the first state in the country to approve a citizen's initiative that allows same-sex couples to receive a marriage license, and Maryland voters showed popular support for equal rights by approving a bill passed earlier by the state legislature.

"We have made history tonight," said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, which led the fight in the state. "For the first time, we have won marriage at the ballot box."

"To all the states out there that have seen marriage stripped away or blocked at the ballot box, take hope from the change that's taken place over the last three years in Maine."

-Matt McTighe

"Here in Maine, we proved that voters can change their hearts and minds if we tell our stories and give our fellow citizens a personal connection to the countless families whose lives are impacted by this debate," he continued. "To all the states out there that have seen marriage stripped away or blocked at the ballot box, take hope from the change that's taken place over the last three years in Maine."

The latest results showed the Yes on 1 Campaign in Maine winning 53% to 47% with 97% of precincts reporting. In Maryland, Referendum 74 passed by a 52% to 48% margin.

"This victory is one for the history books. It marks a huge milestone not just for Maine, but for all of America," said Rea Carey, Executive Director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in a statement.

Maine and Maryland join six other states (mostly in the north east) that allow same-sex couples to marry, but are both historic for the role played by the ballot process.

"The marriage equality map [now] expands to Maryland, giving thousands more loving couples the opportunity to make lifelong commitments through marriage," said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a statement. "This is a milestone night for the simple truth that when Americans are presented with the real lives of their friends and neighbors, they have no choice but to vote for their equality.It is the momentum reflected in poll after poll that shows a growing majority for marriage equality across the country.

"For the first time, voters in Maine and Maryland voted to allow loving couples to make lifelong commitments through marriage -- forever taking away the right-wing talking point that marriage equality couldn't win on the ballot," said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group. Griffin continued.

Robert McCartney, columnist for the Washington Post, writes:

Marriage triumphed in Maryland partly because activists from the start openly stressed the powerful appeal of equal, civil rights, especially to African American voters. They did so more than earlier campaigns have done in other states.

That approach won over Beverly Clough, 62, of Prince George's County. She voted for same-sex marriage even though it makes her uncomfortable.

"I am religious, and I don't really believe in it," Clough said. But, she added, "I can't tell [gay people] what to do with their lives. They are equal like anybody else."

The Bangor Daily News in Maine reports:

In Maine, the fight over same-sex marriage is familiar. The Legislature and Gov. John Baldacci enacted a law to allow same-sex marriage in 2009, but it was repealed later that year by a citizen-initiated veto that passed 53 percent to 47 percent -- which ironically was the same spread that Question 1 passed by on Tuesday, according to unofficial results collected by the BDN with 85 percent of precincts reporting. In addition, Congress repealed the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Act in 2010 -- clearing the way for gays in the military -- and earlier this year President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to voice his support for same-sex marriage.

But until recent years, same-sex marriage has had a tough run. Opponents of gay marriage say that in the 32 states where voters have weighed in on the same-sex marriage issue, it has been rejected.

But Rick Jacobs, founder and chairman of the Courage Campaign, said as of Tuesday, "the tide has turned" in favor of same-sex marriage since 2008, when California voters approved a measure known as Proposition 8 which amended its constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.

"When voters have the opportunity to really hear directly from loving, committed same-sex couples and their families, they voted for fairness and the freedom to marry," Jacobs said in a press release. "How fitting that four years after Prop. 8 awakened the nation, and the world, to the injustice of marriage for some but not for all committed couples, we have now won at the ballot box. The Supreme Court can see that America is continuing its historic march towards equality and justice for all. Those who oppose the freedom to marry for committed couples are clearly on the wrong side of history. ... it won't be long at all before all loving, committed couples have the freedom to marry."

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