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Same-sex marriage was on the ballot yesterday in four states – Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.  With results in from three of the four states, it appears that proponents of same-sex marriage have won historic victories.

Voters in Maryland and Maine approved same-sex marriage yesterday — the first time that gay marriage has been approved by popular votes.  While six states and the District of Columbia have legalized same sex-marriage through court decisions or legislative decision, voters had previously rejected it 32 times in a row. 

In Maryland, voters were asked whether to affirm the gay marriage law that was approved by the legislature and signed by the governor.  The enactment of the law was postponed after opponents gathered enough signatures to force a public vote.  With the voters upholding the law by 52-48 percent, gay couples will be able to wed starting January 1, 2013.

In Maine,  same-sex marriage passed  by the margin of 54-46 percent.  Three years ago, in 2009, Maine voters narrowly repealed a law to allow gay marriage that had been passed by the legislature.  The earliest gay and lesbian couples in Maine could marry will likely be early January, after certification of the results, a 10-day approval period for the governor and a constitutionally mandated 30-day waiting period for the law to take effect.  

In the state of  Washington, the referendum to legalize same-sex marriage was leading 52% to 48% late last night,  A mail-in voting procedure in Washington allowing voters until election day to mail in their ballots means that final results there won’t be known until week’s end.

A state constitutional amendment on the ballot in Minnesota, which proposed defining marriage as between a man and a woman, was defeated.  With 99%  of precincts reporting, the amendment had the support of only 48% of voters.  Many Republicans had been trying to get the measure on the ballot for years but were blocked by Democrats who controlled the Senate.  After a historic Republican surge in 2010, the GOP finally won control of both the House and the Senate and was able to get the measure on the ballot.

Before the election, gay marriage was legal in the District of Columbia and six states – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York  and Vermont.  However 30 states have constitutional amendments prohibiting it, and 11 more – including Minnesota — have laws banning it.