In Tuesday's elections, approval of same-sex-marriage initiatives broke a 32-state streak, dating back to 1998.
Voters a continent apart made history Tuesday by approving ballot measures on same-sex marriage and marijuana.
Approval of same-sex-marriage initiatives in Maine and Maryland broke a 32-state streak, dating back 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 legalize gay marriage.
“For the first time, voters in Maine and Maryland voted to allow loving couples to make lifelong commitments through marriage — forever taking away the right-wing talking point that marriage equality couldn’t win on the ballot,” said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group.
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A similar measure was ahead in Washington state, while Minnesota voters were considering a conservative-backed amendment that would place a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution.
The outcomes could possibly 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.
An amendment that would make it legal in Colorado for individuals to possess and for businesses to sell marijuana for recreational use was approved by voters.
There are similar measures before voters in Washington and Oregon.
In Massachusetts, voters approved a measure to allow marijuana use for medical reasons, joining 17 other states. Arkansas voters were deciding on a similar measure that would make it the first Southern state in that group.
In California, voters were deciding whether to repeal the state’s death penalty. If the measure prevailed, the sentences of the more than 720 inmates on death row there would be converted to life in prison.
While 17 states have ended capital punishment, most did so through legislative action. Only in Oregon, in 1964, did voters choose to repeal the death penalty; they later reversed themselves to reinstate it.
In all, there were 176 measures on the ballots Tuesday in 38 states, according to the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California.
Other notable ballot measures:
• 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.
• Florida voters rejected a proposal that would have banned government mandates for obtaining insurance such as required by President Obama’s health-care overhaul. Floridians also rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have limited revenue growth to match increases in population and cost of living.
Other measures being considered:
Assisted suicide: A proposal in Massachusetts would legalize physician-assisted suicide. Massachusetts would join Oregon and Washington in allowing terminally ill patients to obtain lethal doses of medication if doctors say they have six months or less to live.
Income-tax hike: Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30, aimed at averting $6 billion in California budget cuts, mostly to education, would raise income taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year for seven years and raise the sales tax by a quarter cent for four years. Proposition 38, sponsored by civil-rights attorney Molly Munger, would raise income taxes on nearly all earners and send the money directly to local school districts, bypassing the Legislature.
Modified food: Another measure in California would require most genetically engineered processed foods and produce sold in supermarkets and other outlets to be labeled as such. These foods also would be prohibited from carrying the term “natural” on their labels.
Union politicking: California labor unions were the target of another measure, aimed at depriving them of tens of millions of dollars they use to finance campaigns and political organizing. Proposition 32 would prohibit corporations and unions from collecting money through payroll deductions for state political activities from employees or members through paycheck deductions.
Union rights: Michigan voters were deciding on a first-of-its-kind ballot initiative that would put collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution — and out of lawmakers’ reach. The battle comes after conflicts in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere where Republican efforts to weaken organized labor have produced protests and political tumult.
Health care: In Alabama, Montana, Florida and Wyoming, voters had an opportunity to weigh in on one key aspect of Obama’s health-care overhaul in the form of Republican-backed measures stating that no individual or business can be compelled to participate in a health-care system. The measures are viewed as largely symbolic; they would violate federal law and any attempt to enforce them would likely wind up in the courts.
Affirmative action: Oklahoma voters approved abolishing affirmative action programs in state government and education.