This November, there were four ballot initiatives across the United States concerning the legal legitimacy of same-sex marriage. The states that proposed these initiatives were Minnesota, Washington, Maryland, and Maine.
The state of Minnesota currently bans same sex marriage, but voters recently chose to reject the the Marriage Amendment to the state constitution. This amendment would have amended the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. This outcome is significant because the passing of the amendment would have prevented the state’s legislature or courts from challenging the current policy.
Maine’s initiative, Question 1, did not attempt to change the state’s constitution, but rather, sought to amend state law in order to allow same-sex couples to marry. On November 6th, the initiative also known as “An Act To Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom” passed with a 53% majority vote. In addition to allowing marriage licenses to be granted to same-sex couples in Maine, Maine will now recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states and will ensure that the rights of religious groups who are unsupportive of same-sex marriage will not be abridged.
Washington State’s Referendum 74, was proposed in response to a bill signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire in February, 2012. The bill, which was intended to go into effect in June, legalized same-sex marriage in the state. However, a sufficient number of voters lent their signatures to create a ballot initiative that halted the bill’s progress until November’s elections. Referendum 74 asked for a simple yes or no vote to allow gay marriage; the majority vote approved gay marriage, and the governor’s law will take effect on December 6, 2012.
As in Washington, Maryland’s Question 6 also sought to approve legislation that recently passed in the state. In March 2012, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which legalized same-sex marriage while guaranteeing protections for religious groups who oppose it.
With a 52 % majority, the Act will now go into effect on January 1, 2013.
While only these four states – Minnesota, Maine, Washington, and Maryland – all addressed the topic of same-sex marriage through voter initiatives in this election cycle, this timely issue is sure to appear on more ballots throughout the country in years to come.