Gay marriage advocates cheered victories in voter initiatives in Maryland and Maine on Tuesday night and seemed poised to win in two other states. The votes were first setbacks at the ballot box for opponents of same-sex marriage after more than 30 victories.
With 93 percent of the vote counted in Maryland, Ballot Question 6, which legalizes gay marriage in the state, was leading by 52 percent to 48 percent, and supporters were already claiming victory in the heated and expensive battle.
“Today the marriage equality map expands to Maryland, giving thousands more loving couples the opportunity to make lifelong commitments through marriage,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, which poured almost $3 million into the Maryland ballot issue.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who pushed for gay marriage, said to Maryland’s children, “please know that you and your families matter to the people of our state. Whether your parents happen to be gay or straight, Democratic, Republican or independent, your families are equal before the eyes of the law.”
In Maine, Question 1, which also approves gay marriage, was ahead 52 percent to 48 percent, with 60 percent of the precincts counted.
“Maine voters chose freedom over fear,” said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.
In Minnesota, an amendment to limit marriage to only one man and one woman was in a dead heat: With 53 percent of the votes tallies, 48 percent approved the amendment, 48 percent rejected it and 4 percent left it blank. The amendment must have 50 percent or more affirmative votes to be adopted.
In Washington state, the fourth state with a gay marriage measure on the ballot Tuesday, early returns showed voters approving gay marriage 52 percent to 48 percent. The mail-in votes, however, could take days to be completed.
The measures sparked intense opposition in every state, with social conservatives rallying to try to preserve traditional marriage.
But gay marriage advocates were banking on Tuesday night’s votes to give their movement its first victories at the polls.
“Will we look back on Election Day 2012 as the tipping point in the fight to win marriage equality in every state across the country?” asked Carolyn Simon, a digital media team leader at the Human Rights Campaign.
“We can win all four!” said thefour2012.com, a website dedicated to the gay marriage battles in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington state.
Supporters of traditional marriage were rallying their troops, too, in a bid to keep their perfect record at the ballot box intact.
“We need every vote,” the National Organization for Marriage said in an Election Day email. “These are critical, and close, close races.”
Voters have “the awesome responsibility” to step up to the ballot box and steer the course of the nation, including restoring “the crucial, long-standing, God-ordained definition of marriage in our land,” said Penny Nance, chief executive and president of Concerned Women for America.