by Lila Shapiro, Huffington Post:
For the first time in history, voters have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage on the ballot. Gay rights advocates are already celebrating this development as a critical victory and a turning point in the fight for marriage equality.
Since the late '90s, a total of 32 states have held votes on same-sex marriage, and each time, voters have opposed the measure. For opponents of same-sex marriage, this string of victories has been a crucial talking point. As Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, the nation's leading group opposing gay marriage, said in a press release this summer: "The American people know in their heart what marriage is, and they have expressed that in the form of over 70 million votes cast in 32 consecutive state elections to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman."
But on Tuesday night, voters in Maine and Maryland chose to legalize gay marriage, according to exit polls and early returns. In Minnesota and Washington, the results were not yet clear as of this writing.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that has long advocated for same-sex marriage, spent more than $5 million in support of gay marriage in these states.
“This is a landmark election for marriage equality and we will forever look back at this year as a critical turning point in the movement for full citizenship for LGBT people," he said in a press release Tuesday night. "Voters in Maine came to the common-sense conclusion that all people deserve the ability to make loving, lifelong commitments through marriage."
Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, another prominent advocacy organization, said in a press release: “Today, a majority in Maine voted in favor of loving and committed same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry. Now the commitment gay and lesbian couples have made in life will be respected equally under the law, celebrated before their loved ones, and called what it is: marriage.”
For gay-rights advocates, the Maine vote is particularly heartening. Just three years ago, a popular vote overturned legislation that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state.
"Securing marriage equality at the ballot box in Maine is especially appreciated the second time around," R. Clark Cooper, head of the Log Cabin Republicans, the largest Republican group that supports same-sex marriage, told The Huffington Post in an email.
Although six states and Washington, D.C. legalized gay marriage before Tuesday night, they did so through the votes of state legislators or court decisions. The new victory undermines the conservative premise that those early wins were merely the result of liberal bias in state legislatures and the courts, and it reflects what recent polls have shown to be a shift in Americans' views on the issue.
“It’s hard to overstate the national significance of this vote,” Solomon said. “For years, our opponents have argued that we could not win a majority vote at the ballot. Today, Maine voters proved them wrong, standing up for the Golden Rule and for freedom for all Mainers.”
Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage could not immediately be reached for comment.