Supporters of gay marriage won all four ballot question contests, in a display that drives home the extent to which popular opinion on this issue has shifted in an historically short period of time. As of January 1, 2013, there will be 10 jurisdictions in the United States where same-sex couples can marry. According to the Williams Institute, 20% of gay couples live in those states, as does 16% of the total population.
And next spring, when the Supreme Court considers whichever marriage-related case(s) it hears, the heightened sense of inevitability will provide a wind at the back of those arguing for recognition.
What is stunning is that in all of these states, the proportion of yes and no voters are almost exactly the same, whether New England, mid Atlantic, Midwest, or Pacific Northwest. Moreover, the percentages were virtually the same as what we saw in California on Prop 8, only flipped. Four years ago, 52% of Californians voted for a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Yesterday, elections in all four states produced the same level of majority support – 52 or 53% – but this time on the gay equality side.
In Maine, with almost all precincts reporting, the referendum on accepting a marriage equality bill enacted by the legislature last year passed by a 53% to 47% margin.
In Maryland, on essentially the same question, it was the same result with almost the same breakdown: 53% yes to 48% no.
In Minnesota, the question was different – whether to amend the state’s constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage (there is already a statute to that effect – and the yes votes came in at 48% .
Washington state was the third location where the issue was ratification of a marriage equality bill. All the returns will not be in for several days because mail-in votes are still outstanding. So far, 52% of the ballots have supported the marriage bill.
The debate over marriage will not end soon, but it will never be the same.