Gay marriage was approved by popular vote for the first time Tuesday night, as supporters scored victories in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington.
In the previous thirty state votes on same-sex marriage, most recently in North Carolina, voters opted to keep defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Maine had just voted against gay marriage in 2009 by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin, overturning legislation passed by the state legislature.
On Tuesday, Maine voters reversed themselves by breaking 53 percent to 47 percent in favor of gay marriage.
The Maine initiative was put on the state ballot by supporters of gay marriage. In Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, it was opponents who sought to bring the issue before voters.
In Maryland, a referendum question allowing same-sex marriage passed by 52 percent to 48 percent. Washington state’s initiative was approved by the same margin.
Minnesota’s ballot featured a constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, 51 percent of voters opposed it.
President Barack Obama announced that he was in favor of gay marriage in May. His change in position may have helped same-sex nuptials pass in Maryland, where black voters were key.
More than 70 percent of black voters supported California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman, in 2008. In Maryland, blacks were split down the middle on the issue.
While gay marriage remains controversial, Gallup has found that national support has risen from 27 percent in 1996 to 50 percent in May 2012.
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