Maryland women engaged moments after measure is approved.
Maryland was joined by Maine in approving gay marriage, making the two states’ voters the first in the country to approve the measures by a popular vote. Voters in Minnesota rejected a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-same sex marriage.
In Maryland, gay couples will be able to wed starting Jan. 1.
As they watched the results at a Baltimore club and sensed victory, Ruth Siegel and Nina Nethery, together for 15 years, said they felt joyous. They were surrounded by hundreds of supporters of the referendum to legalize same sex marriage.
“It’s being part of history,” said Nethery, 59, a systems analyst who lives with Siegel in Silver Spring. “ I’m in history.”
Several of the votes — most notably Question 6, the same-sex marriage measure — carried political consequences for Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). Marylanders were asked whether to affirm the gay marriage law championed this year by the governor that was put on hold after opponents gathered enough signatures to force a public vote.
Maryland and Maine join six other states and the District where same-sex marriage has been legal.
Voters in Washington also considered a measure to allow gay nuptials Tuesday. With just over 51 percent of precincts reporting, votes in favor of the measure were slightly ahead of votes against it, but the contest remained to close to call.
In brief remarks to a boisterous crowd in Baltimore, O’Malley, who championed the measure, described a campaign for marriage equality as a “noble battle to move Maryland forward.”
Anthony Valenzuela, 37, standing with his partner, Kent deJong, 51, said the referendum’s passage signifies that “Maryland is a pathfinder for other states. It means that the people can decide in favor of love.”
The couple said they expect to get married next year, perhaps in Iowa where deJong has family. “It allows society to recognize us as a couple,” deJong said. “Its an affirmation.”
In the first election since President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage, a popular-vote win will now change the dynamics of the debate going forward, gay-rights activists said.
“It takes away the talking points that anti-marriage activists use day in and day out: that this issue can’t win at the ballot box,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Coalition, the nation’s largest gay-rights organization.
Griffin attributed the success to a new, carefully assembled coalition that united gay-rights advocates with officials at the NAACP, with clergy, and with businesses and philanthropists who hadn’t previously contributed to the gay-rights causes.