Today is the first day that same-sex couples are allowed to get married in the state of Washington. The legislation permitting same-sex marriage was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire on February 13, 2012, but it was stayed pending a vote of the people. In every instance of same-sex marriage going to the vote of the people, it had been voted down. But the general election of 2012 would turn out to be more interesting than all the years prior.
Washington was not the only state voting on same-sex marriage. Maryland had also passed by same-sex marriage through its legislature and the people of the state were voting, too. The people of Minnesota were voting on whether to ban same-sex marriage in their state. And in the state of Maine, the people were voting to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage which was put in effect in 2009 after same-sex marriage was signed by the the governor earlier that year. National polls in recent years have showed a shift in favor of same-sex marriage, but that has never played out in state contests. Earlier this year, North Carolina voted 61%-39% to ban same-sex marriage… becoming the last southern state to put a ban in place.
Most eyes on election night were focused on the election of President and which party would control Congress. But as the night went on, the results of these ballot measures began to come in. Maine was the first state to announce that the voters had overturned it’s ban on same-sex marriage, making it legal in the state, by a vote of 53%-47%. With that vote, it became the first state to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage. In hindsight, it seems only fitting since it was the first state to approve same-sex marriage through the legislature and with the signature of its governor. It was a risky move since if it had failed, it could have set back the movement in the state for years to come, but the LGBT community was allowed to rejoice. Maryland would come in next. By a vote of 52% to 48%, same-sex marriage was again approved by the voters. This marked the first time a state, which did not have a ban on same-sex marriage in place, approved of gay marriage through a referendum after having it passed by the legislature. And here’s a quirky bit of history to go with it. Maryland was the only colony originally set up with Catholicism under the Calvert family. Seems to be a bit ironic. The LGBT community held its breath for the state of Minnesota. Never had a state voted down a referendum to ban same-sex marriage. Arizona did briefly in 2006 but approved a different one in 2008. But again, the winds seemed to be pushing forward. The people voted 51%-47% not to ban same-sex marriage in their state. It didn’t make it legal, but it left the door open for it to happen one day in the future.
It was stated at the beginning, more or less, how the state of Washington ended up voting. The final vote was 53%-47% in favor. Why might this be important. I stated earlier that national polls had shown a shift by the people to support same-sex marriage recently. In a poll conducted from November 16-19, same-sex marriage was supported by 51% with 40% opposed. This was preceded by another poll, this time conducted by ABC News/Washington Post from November 7-11, found that 51% approved and 47% were opposed to same-sex marriage. And just to add one more layer onto this, a June 6 CNN/ORC International polls showed that 52% approved same-sex marriage with 42% opposed. This is a dramatic shift in support as only 25% approved of same-sex marriage in 1996. By looking at the percentages in the states Maine, Maryland, and Washington, they are pretty much right on the national poll numbers. The state of Minnesota, voted down their marriage ban by almost the same numbers as well.
Critics of same-sex marriage have always changed their tactics. When state courts started overturning laws that violated that particular state’s constitution, the opposition started declaring that the legislatures had to approve of such things. When legislatures started approving same-sex marriages, critics started saying that a vote of the people should make the determination. Then they would set out on a ‘fear and smear’ campaign to get voters to approve of same-sex marriage bans. But with some states, victory for equal rights had already been accomplished. And with the passage of time, people have been able to see the lies that came with the ‘fear and smear’ campaigns of earlier years. As the years continue to progress, it would seem that same-sex marriage will only garner more and more approval from the people. States that currently have bans in place might even follow Maine and vote to overturn them. But one must wonder since referendums in support of same-sex marriage have now been approved by the people, and a referendum banning same-sex marriage has been defeated in the same way, what will be the opposition’s next move? No matter what it is, history has already dictated what that outcome will be.