A man photographs a sign proclaiming that President Barack Obama supports marriage equality rights at the LA Pride parade in West Hollywood, California, June 10, 2012. The parade is part of the annual Los Angeles lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride celebration in West Hollywood. (Photo : Reuters)
Voters in four states will have to choose more than just a president this November 6, as ballots to legalize same-sex marriage are put up for vote.
Advocates for marriage equality hope to legalize the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples in Maine, Washington and Maryland this year. Traditional Marriage advocates, however, hope to pass an amendment banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
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According to Reuters, initiatives to ban same-sex marriage have succeeded in 31 states. Six states, including the District of Colombia, however, have legalized the right to marry for same-sex couples.
Court rulings helped legalize same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, Iowa and Connecticut, while legislatures helped legalize it in Vermont, New York and New Hampshire. These marriages, however, are not recognized by the U.S. government, Newsday reported, due to a 1996 law that is being challenged in federal appeals court.
In Maine, gay marriage was originally defeated in a 2009 referendum by 53 to 47 percent, Reuters reported. A poll released by non-partisan Maine People's Resource Center revealed that registered voters approve of issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples 53 to 43 percent. If true, it could push Maine in becoming the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through popular vote.
Voters in Washington and Maryland, on the other hand, will have to decide whether to keep marriage rights laws for same-sex couples passed earlier this year, Reuters reported. Voters in both states were found to approve of same-sex marriage. An OpinionWorks survey in Maryland found voters approved 49 to 39 percent, while a SurveyUSA poll in Washington found voters approved 50 to 43 percent.
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, told Reuters, "Winning a ballot measure is really the last barrier that we have to overcome."
In Minnesota, traditional marriage supporters hope to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, Reuters reported. Voters there were found to be divided on the issue by Public Policy Polling, 48 percent supporting the ban and 47 percent against it.
Nationally, the general American population is moving towards being in favor of same-sex marriage. According to Newsday, a June 28- July 9 poll by Pew Research Center found 48 percent of Americans favored same-sex marriage, while 44 percent opposed it. In 2009, the numbers were the opposite; Americans were found to oppose same-sex marriage 54-37 percent.
Scott Keeter, the director of survey research for Pew, told Newsday, "The increase in support for same-sex marriage has been quite rapid over the past four years, a much steeper rise than we saw over the previous eight years that we'd been tracking this. Most analysts of public opinion expected this growth in support to happen, although perhaps not as fast as it actually did."
However, defenders of traditional marriage believe that voters will continue to oppose laws permitting same-sex marriage. Matt Hutson, campaign director for Protect Marriage Maine, told Reuters, "I don't believe there are a whole lot of undecideds on this issue. People know where they stand, just as they did three years ago."
"Quite honestly, we're seeing a groundswell of people saying, we don't agree with this and we don't like that they keep bringing this up again, even though we already voted against it," he added.
Back in May, President Barack Obama became the first president to endorse same-sex marriage. The Democratic Party later included the stance as part of its official party platform.