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Altering the course of U.S social policy, Maine and Maryland became the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote, while Washington state and Colorado set up a showdown with federal authorities by legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

The outcomes for those ballot measures Tuesday were a milestone for persistent but often thwarted advocacy groups and activists who for decades have pressed the causes of gay rights and drug decriminalization.

"Today the state of Washington looked at 70 years of marijuana prohibition and said it's time for a new approach," said Alison Holcomb, manager of the campaign that won passage of Initiative 502 in Washington.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed legalization, was less enthused. "Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly," he said.

The results in Maine and Maryland broke a 32-state streak, dating to 1998, in which gay marriage had been rebuffed by every state that voted on it. They will become the seventh and eighth states to allow same-sex couples to marry.

In another gay-rights victory, Minnesota voters defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would banned same-sex marriage in the state. Similar measures were approved in 30 other states, most recently in North Carolina in May.

"The tide has turned — when voters have the opportunity to really hear directly from loving, committed same-sex couples and their families, they voted for fairness," said Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign, a California-based gay rights group. "Those who oppose the freedom to marry for committed couples are clearly on the wrong side of history."

Washington state also voted on a measure to legalize same-sex marriage, though results were not expected until Wednesday at the soonest.

The outcomes of the marriage votes could influence the U.S. Supreme Court, which will soon consider whether to take up cases challenging the law that denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages. The gay-rights victories come on the heels of numerous national polls that, for the first time, show a majority of Americans supporting same-sex marriage.

Maine's referendum marked the first time that gay-rights supporters put same-sex marriage to a popular vote. They collected enough signatures to schedule the vote, hoping to reverse a 2009 referendum that quashed a gay-marriage law enacted by the Legislature.

In Maryland and Washington, gay-marriage laws were approved by lawmakers and signed by the governors this year, but opponents gathered enough signatures to challenge the laws.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who campaigned vigorously for the marriage measure, spoke to a jubilant crowd in Baltimore. Christopher Wold, 31, danced with his partner of four years after the result became clear. He said they would like to marry now that it's legal in Maryland.

"It feels so good to be accepted by so many people of all different backgrounds," he said. "It just feels wonderful."

The president of the most active advocacy group opposing same-sex marriage, Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, insisted Tuesday's results did not mark a watershed moment.

"At the end of the day, we're still at 32 victories," he said. "Just because two extreme blue states vote for gay marriage doesn't mean the Supreme Court will create a constitutional right for it out of thin air."

Heading into the election, gay marriage was legal in six states and the District of Columbia — in each case the result of legislation or court orders, not by a vote of the people.

The marijuana measures in Colorado and Washington will likely pose a headache for the U.S. Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration, which consider pot an illegal drug. The DOJ has declined to say how it would respond if the measures were approved.

Colorado's Amendment 64 will allow adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, though using the drug publicly would be banned. The amendment would allow people to grow up to six marijuana plants in a private, secure area.

Washington's measure establishes a system of state-licensed marijuana growers, processors and stores, where adults can buy up to an ounce. It also establishes a standard blood test limit for driving under the influence.

The Washington measure was notable for its sponsors and supporters, who ranged from public health experts and wealthy high-tech executives to two former top Justice Department's officials in Seattle, U.S. Attorneys John McKay and Kate Pflaumer.

"Marijuana policy reform remains an issue where the people lead and the politicians follow," said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, which opposes the co-called "war on drugs." ''But Washington state shows that many politicians are beginning to catch up."

Estimates show pot taxes could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but the sales won't start until state officials make rules to govern the legal weed industry.

The Washington measure was opposed by Derek Franklin, president of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention.

"Legalizing is going to increase marijuana use among kids and really create a mess with the federal government," Franklin said. "It's a bit of a tragedy for the state."

In Oregon, a marijuana-legalization measure was defeated. In Massachusetts, voters approved a measure to allow marijuana use for medical reasons, joining 17 other states. Arkansas voters rejected a similar measure.

In all, 176 measures were on the ballots Tuesday in 38 states, according to the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California.

Other notable results:

— Maryland voters approved a measure allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition, provided they attended a state high school for three years and can show they filed state income tax returns during that time. About a dozen other states have similar laws, but Maryland's is the first to be approved by voters.

— In Oklahoma, voters approved a Republican-backed measure that wipes out all affirmative action programs in state government hiring, education and contracting practices. Similar steps have been taken previously in Arizona, California, Michigan, Nebraska and Washington.

— In Michigan, labor unions suffered a big loss. Voters rejected a first-of-its-kind ballot initiative that would have put collective bargaining rights in the state constitution.

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12 thoughts on “Gay Marriage, Marijuana Backed in Historic Votes

  1. aroundtheway on said:

    To the above, you need to go back and re-read the post.
    I didn’t say the majority of atheists are against marriage. I said the majority of VOTERS classified themselves as atheists, spiritual but not religious, or don’t attend church regularly.
    The reason I pointed that out is because the INITIAL argument was that only people with religious convictions are against gay marriage, when in fact the majority of the winning vote came from non-religion affiliated voters. Understand the discussion before you attempt to attack, I am well aware that there are atheists on both sides of the fence, the same way there are black republicans. hence the word MAJORITY, not ALL.

  2. aroundtheway on said:

    Aww you hurt my feelings. You have very poor listening skills and are too focused on grandstanding for” equality” that you can’t focus…this discussion was about religious racism, not morals.
    How kind of you to put words in my mouth, I don’t remember saying I was homophobic, or quoting a scripture. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve worked with CHIRLA and the Black Aids Institute for years, which supports the gay community. I’m mature and christian enough to hold only myself accountable to my religious beliefs, not belittle others for thinking against me.

    If you feel my comments are so ignorant/misinformed/hateful, by all means stick around and talk instead of throwing a temper tantrum. I find it dangerous that you are mentoring and helping such a mistreated, abused population when you can’t even have a civil discussion with someone you perceive to be a bible thumping homophobic.
    I will agree with you on one thing, we do have a lot of work to do, starting with you. I wish you the best of luck to your human rights efforts.

    Don’t let the door knob hit you.

  3. You are being disingenuous and getting defensive because you cannot answer the question of morality that you, yourself actually brought up. My point has nothing to do with the ‘black community’–it has to do with religion being the basis of this opposition, not ‘morality’ and since you have nothing to base anything on, you keep communicating in a vacuum of nonsense. Please try to stay focused on one simple topic. Your initial statement was totally untrue and easily discredited since there was no evidence to back it up or sources to cite for your claims. At least have the courage of your convictions like most who will at least honestly and openly embrace religion as their basis of opposition. (It’s your faith–why be ashamed to admit it?) You are standing on the wrong side of history which will be evident in the not so distant future.
    Too many young people (not just African Americans) are routinely hated, beaten, bashed and even killed by people using your exact same arguments (which ironically are the exact same ‘biblical’ reasons used to justify both slavery and miscegenation laws of the past).
    I deal with the aftermath of people disowned, discriminated against, discredited, devastated and nearly destroyed from people who think/believe like you do, so my community work will definitely continue. Your comments illustrate how much it is clearly needed! Quite sad and depressing to watch so people fight so hard against and get so happy over denying or removing the rights of a US citizen that they themselves enjoy. Sick actually.
    Also, I will no longer post comments on this thread. Since you are incapable of supporting, explaining or even understanding your own point, there is nothing else to say. (I almost feel myself getting dumber trying to have a relevant discussion with you). Furthermore, I have enough to share with my co-workers and students to show that despite the awesome Obama victory, the record number of women in the US senate and the victories for marriage equality that all prevailed today, there is a lot of work yet to be done.
    Perhaps one day you will find it in your heart to accept and respect people for who they are, instead of whether of not they past your ‘personal religious morality’ test.

    Good night and thank for again reminding me (us) that the work for equality is far from over.

  4. aroundtheway on said:

    Regarding the atheist citation, if you go back to my first post and read slowly, you will see that I clearly did not lump them into one group:
    “the majority of voters classified themselves as atheists, spiritual but not religious, OR don’t attend church regularly”

    Judging how you veered off the topic speaks to how misunderstandings and slander begins. As I have said before, this discussion was about religious BLACKS being soley blamed for the anti gay vote. If you want to understand or explore the moral argument by non religoius voters then YOU research it. That was never my position, nor do I care to defend it. I’m interested in religious blacks being harassed or suffering from hate crimes because of an ill informed public, when in fact the discrimination comes from a much higher and larger place.
    The fact remains that the majority vote struck it down, and the black community or church is not the majority. ( all of your great article citing proved the point that BLACKS are not responsible for the vote due to the geographic location of the “religious” states against it.)
    I could care less about the humanistic, moral side of this. I said just don’t use black religion as the scape goat and only opposition. Just like you, I have atheist, muslim, gay, and even one polygamist friend. I don’t need to justify our differences or beliefs, I respect them and leave it at that, and I certainly don’t point the finger to one group for the rejection of another.
    This is about perception of BLACK churches and discrimination. I’ll go off topic to say I’ve read studies to understand the nature vs nurture vs perversion argument on homosexuality. Everything from gay animals to finger length determining a gay tendency gene. As for your community work, keep up the good work with the outreach and being open minded. But the fact that you need research to tell you if homosexuality is or isn’t morally acceptable is the very reason why so many people are lost today, but that’s each person’s own business. In the future, learn to understand and stick with the initial argument instead of having a debate and justification match. It’s for this very reason of not listening that get people sidetracked and prejudices are born. . There’s my position…

  5. I am not attacking you; I am really trying to understand your position on this having to do solely with morality and not at all with religion. There exists (several) moral arguments for marriage equality–civil rights, separation of church of state, the pursuit of happiness, genetics, protection against the ‘tyranny of the majority’, scientific evidence of homosexuality in more than 1500 species, etc… just to spout off a few. I also know lots of atheists and have been working with this issue for several years so please tell me what exactly is the moral argument against marriage equality without using or citing religion at all? If you cannot, then I suggest you educate yourself more on this issue before making such statements.

    (FYI: You may want to look up the definition of ‘atheist’ because there is a difference between someone who is an ‘atheist’ and people who are agnostic, “spiritual” and those who don’t go to church regularly. Lumping them in one category provides no relevant or useful information at all ‘supporting morality instead of religion’ since there are ‘theists’ mixed in, hence there is no control group. Please learn how to use/analyze statistical information before attempting to cite it to support your point.)

  6. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    It looks like Washington state also voted in favor of marriage equality as well! Actually, there was quite a bit of opposition from some members of the ‘Black Community’ but most of these states have much smaller African-American populations than the Southern part of the country so their vocal opposition did little to prevent justice and equality from prevailing this time. Fortunately, your personal religious views are totally immaterial in a democracy.

  7. The majority of atheists are NOT against marriage equality. Where did you get that information? That is simply not true at all and easily researched. The AHA (American Humanist Association) is just one organization that have been providing financial, legislative and emotional support for marriage equality and repealing DADT (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) for years.
    According to the latest Gallop Poll (published March 29, 2012 in Time Magazine) the most religious states: Mississippi, Utah, Alabama, Louisiana & Arkansas vehemently oppose marriage equality; while the least religious: Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and now Maine all have marriage equality as the law of the land.
    Please provide reputable links/info supporting your statement that the majority people against marriage equality are atheists/non believers and not ‘theists’.

  8. aroundtheway on said:

    I’ll say it again… if you check the statistics for voting Americans,you will find that the majority of people who voted against it, ALSO identify themselves as having no religious preference or affiliation.
    63% of voters claim to be aetheist, spiritual but not religious, or don’t attend church.Their opinions are NOT based on religion, but their OWN personal morals. The same people then want to pick apart scriptures out of the bible they claim NOT to believe in, but only when it supports their purpose.

  9. It is hard not to link this opposition to religion when virtually all arguments against it always begin and/or end with someone’s (personal) religious beliefs. If it were simply a moral issue then atheists/humanists and non-religious people would also be overwhelmingly against it and this has never been the case at all. Be against whatever you want, who cares, but you simply cannot make people live their life based upon your God.
    Not surprisingly, ancient words from 1st century Rome (BC) still resonate today:
    “All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher.” Lucretius

  10. jimmyg on said:

    I think it is a repugnant thought or notion that men should sleep with other men as if they were women.The bible thumpers point to Lev 18ch 22v. As the voice from God.But it was Moses speaking to the folks.He also said, thou shalt not kill.But those same bible thumpers have been enslaving and killing for centuries.The same folks who hate abortions but don’t mind a little shock and awe that kill thousands.It looks as if there is a new day in America.

  11. aroundtheway on said:

    “Black communities” are not soley responsible for rejecting or influencing gay marriage. People want to hide behind the personal morality of religion as a scape goat to blame for rejection. So is it black people rejecting the idea, or is it religion?
    The US voting population consists of 74% of whites, 14% blacks, and 23% Latinos. During the FIRST election in 2008, the white vote blocked gay marriage, and statistics show not all the voters characterize themselves as church goers.
    The “white community” is responsible for the initial ban on gay marriage.
    The same white churches/communities in the southern US, whom you feel overran the “black community” vocality, also don’t support interracial marriages, and a few churches have even banned it.
    America, stop connecting all moral issue rejection with religion when it’s convenient. During the 2008 election, as soon as the media linked anti gay marriage with black churches, it caused a several demonstrations filled with hate and stigmas against blacks as well as christians. Place the blame where it belongs.
    It was rejected not for personal religious views, but for personal MORAL views of the voting majority. As frequently as we face discrimination, anyone in the black church or living in a black community knows that we are taught to adhere to our religious beliefs but allow others to live as they choose.

  12. africanwarrior on said:

    Gay Marriages a reality?
    Not a Good thing, and against God creation . He created Man and woman and told them” Go Ye Forth And Multiply”.
    If Obama was white he would have faced huge opposition from the Black Churches.

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