Maryland, Maine, Washington approve gay marriage
By Edith Honan
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington state approved same-sex marriage on Tuesday, marking the first time marriage rights have been extended to same-sex couples by popular vote.
The vote was hailed as a watershed moment by gay rights activists. While same-sex unions have been legalized in six states and the District of Columbia by lawmakers or courts, voters had consistently rejected doing so. Voters in more than 30 states have approved constitutional bans on gay marriage.
"We made history and sent a powerful message that we have truly reached a tipping point on gay and lesbian civil rights in this country," said Brian Ellner, head of the pro-gay marriage group The Four. "By winning for the first time on marriage at the ballot box, we made clear what national polls already show — that Americans support fairness and equality for all families."
President Barack Obama this year became the first U.S. president to support gay marriage. His campaign endorsed the gay marriage measures in the three states.
In Maryland, the measure passed 52 percent to 48 percent. In Maine, voters supported the proposal 53 percent to 47 percent, with 75 percent of precincts reporting. And in Washington, a gay marriage measure was approved 52 percent to 48 percent.
Voters in Minnesota rejected a proposal that would have defined marriage solely as a heterosexual union. The constitutional amendment failed 48 percent to 52 percent.
In all four states, the marriage equality effort did better in urban areas and were less popular among rural voters.
The constitutionality of restricting marriage to unions between a man and a woman is widely expected to be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court soon. Continued...