Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Historic Election Night for Same-Sex Marriage Supporters

Last night, in a historic move, voters in Maryland and Maine approved the extension of marriage benefits to same-sex couples via ballot initiatives. After 32 failed attempts, same-sex marriage was finally approved by voters at the ballot box. At present, it looks like Washington voters will be supporting same-sex marriage as well, and in Minnesota, voters said no to an effort to amend the state constitution to solely define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

It was a great night for marriage equality supporters, with concrete evidence that public opinion has truly shifted in their direction -- at least in some states.

What's responsible for the shift? As my own research has suggested, increasing rates of social contact with gay and lesbian friends, family members, and even co-workers and acquaintances has had a profound effect on the opinions of voters -- both young and old. Endorsements by Barack Obama and the NAACP made a difference on Question 6 in Maryland and high turnout among younger voters certainly helps the equality cause.

At the same time, it's important to note that the issue is still particularly divisive -- the current vote count in Maryland suggests 51.2% supported the measure compared to 48.8% who were opposed. Looking at the vote at the county level, you see support for Question 6 in Montgomery, Howard, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Frederick counties, but strong opposition on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Voters in PG county still opposed the bill as did those in more rural and western parts of Maryland.

Watch for more analysis of these ballot initiatives to unfold in the coming days.