Marriage equality issues were on the ballot in four states Tuesday night. Looks like a same-sex marriage sweep (although it is still too close to call for certain in the state of Washington).
Maine voters were asked to act as a super legislature on Tuesday night and to vote for marriage equality. Some years ago they were asked to act as a super legislature and repel the marriage equality bill that had been enacted by the legislature. They did repeal the law. But last night they voted differently, this time in favor of marriage equality. The new law takes effect in January.
Next comes Maryland. There the legislature had enacted marriage equality and the voters were asked to approve or reject the new law on the ballot. In accord with the Maine populace, Maryland approved the marriage bill that had been enacted by the legislature. In January same sex couples will be allowed to marry in that state.
Minnesota comes next (is this an M state thing?). In this state the voters were asked to enact a state DOMA – that is, to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Minnesota is the state where one of the first marriage equality cases was litigated. That case, Baker v. Nelson, went to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1971. The plaintiffs claimed a constitutional right to marry. The Minnesota Supreme Court said no. The United States Supreme Court, which in that era of history was required to accept the appeal from a top state court if the court had ruled in favor of the state law over the federal law (here, the U.S. Constitution), had to rule on the case. The Court ruled that the appeal should be dismissed because it did not raise a substantial federal question. That case is cited today as binding precedent for why lower federal courts should not recognize a constitutionally-protected right to same sex marriage under the federal constitution. It would be sweet justice of a sort if Minnesota were now to reject the constitutional denial of marriage equality. And they did just that on Tuesday. Congratulations and thank you, Minnesota.
Finally, the State of Washington (an upside down M state) also had a ballot vote on marriage. Like Maryland, the voters were asked to ratify or reject the Washington legislature’s enactment of marriage equality. And like Maryland, the Washington voters appear to have ratified the choice made by the legislature. There are still too many uncounted ballots to declare a clear victory on this one, but the votes in support of same-sex marriage are above 50% as of Wednesday morning.
As a result, assuming the Washington majority vote holds, we now have an additional 3 states where same-sex marriage is recognized. And we have one state, Minnesota, that has soundly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage. Is the tide changing?