In shift, gay marriage racks up wins on the ballot

 

McClatchy Newspapers

Supporters of same-sex marriage reached a major milestone in Tuesday’s elections, when Maryland and Maine became the first states where voters upheld marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.

While gay marriage has gained the support of courts, state legislatures and even President Barack Obama, voters have rejected the question every time it has appeared as a ballot issue.

But Tuesday turned the tide. Washington state voters were poised to uphold gay marriage on Wednesday, with supporters of the referendum declaring victory. Voters in Minnesota turned down an effort to ban gay marriage in the state’s constitution.

“We can’t underestimate the importance of what we saw yesterday,” said David Masci, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “It’s a pretty big deal.”

Part of it boils down to demographic changes, he said. Younger voters overwhelmingly backed Obama’s election in 2008 and turned out in even larger numbers on Tuesday. They’re also the group that shows the highest support for gay marriage.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, a New York-based gay rights group, called the Election Day results “a powerful demonstration that the center of gravity has dramatically shifted in our direction” after losses at the ballot in 2004 and 2008.

“We’re working within a huge amount of wind in our sails,” he said.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, downplayed the significance of the votes, saying they were the result of heavy political and financial support in four liberal-leaning states. All four – Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington –voted to re-elect the president.

“Though we are disappointed over these losses, we remain faithful to our mission and committed to the cause of preserving marriage as God designed it,” Brown said in a statement. “Marriage is a true and just cause, and we will never abandon the field of battle just because we experienced a setback."

But the result in each of the four states, where gay marriage supporters prevailed by a roughly 52 percent to 48 percent margin, may reflect how Americans are evolving on the issue.

A Pew Research Center poll in July showed a nearly even split, with 48 percent of Americans supporting gay marriage and 44 percent opposing it. By comparison, in 2004, 60 percent were opposed to it and 31 percent were for it.

“Our nation is still divided on this issue, but the trends are heading in the direction only supporters can be happy about,” Masci said.

Broken down demographically, the contrasts grow even starker. Millennials – mostly Americans under 30 – backed gay marriage overwhelmingly, at 63 percent, according to the Pew poll. For people over 65, however, support falls to 33 percent. And both groups had been even lower in their support in 2004: 51 percent of millennials and 17 percent of the 65 and older age group.

In 2004, the year that Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, voters in 11 other states banned it. Voters in California banned same-sex marriage in 2008 with Proposition 8.

But there has been a shift, with legislatures in New York, New Jersey, Maine, Maryland and Washington all passing gay marriage bills. With Tuesday’s results, gay and lesbian couples could soon marry in nine states and the District of Columbia. The U.S. Supreme Court could decide on Prop 8 or another gay marriage case this term, legal observers say.

Wolfson also attributes the change to the increased visibility of gay and lesbian couples and their families.

“2004 came before people had a chance to hear real gay families,” he said. “In the eight years since, there have been a lot of stories and conversations and a lot of progress that has resulted in wins.”

Email: ctate@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @tatecurtis

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
FILE - This Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 file photo shows a Bank of America sign in Philadelphia. Officials familiar with the deal say Bank of America on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 has reached a record $17 billion settlement with federal and state authorities over its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

    APNewsBreak: BofA reaches $17B settlement with US

    Officials familiar with the deal say Bank of America has reached a record $17 billion settlement with federal and state authorities over its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

  • Report: Firefighting costs eroding conservation

    The Obama administration is detailing the toll that the escalating cost of fighting forest fires has had on other projects as it pushes Congress to overhaul how it pays for the most severe blazes.

  • Some Fed officials favor reduced help for economy

    Some Federal Reserve officials think the economy is improving fast enough that the Fed will soon need to signal a change in the extraordinary support it's been providing the economy in the form of ultra-low interest rates.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category