Thirty-two times U.S. states put same-sex marriage up to a popular vote, and thirty-two times it was rejected. In an historic shift towards marriage equality, the states of Maine, Maryland, and Washington broke the trend by passing measures allowing same-sex couples to wed. As a church, the Universal Life Church Monastery does not take a position on ballot measures themselves, but we are moved that the religious freedom of Catholic Bishops, Unitarian Universalist Reverends, Rabbis, Baptist ministers, and other groups has been upheld, as they testified that states not allowing for marriage equality was infringing upon their religious beliefs, while provisions in these measures also protect other religious groups from being penalized for not promoting the issue.
Maine was the first state to end the losing streak for marriage equality advocates. As of Tuesday night, election results indicated the state had passed Question 1 by a 52-48 percent margin. The results also reflect a rapid change in the social attitudes of Mainers. In 2009 Governor John Baldacci signed into law a bill passed by the state’s legislature allowing same sex marriage, but voters overturned it later that year. The landmark decision topples the argument used by gay-marriage opponents that no state has ever approved the practice by popular vote.
Maryland was next in line to pass marriage equality in the landslide victory for marriage equality advocates. Initially the race looked too close to call, with the latest polls indicating approximately 48 percent of voters would approve Question 6 and 48 would reject it. Maryland is also the state where Catholic Archbishop William Lori “required priests to read a pastoral letter denouncing same-sex marriage from the pulpits of his diocese,” according to Joe Connelly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and where Pastor Derek McCoy freely gave a sermon implying that LGBT Americans and their supporters deserve to die. Nevertheless, Marylanders also voted 52-48 percent to approve a law passed by the legislature earlier in the year to legalize same-sex marriage.
As in Maryland, Washingtonians also voted to approve a law passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire legalizing same-sex marriage. In this northwestern state, voters approved Referendum 74 by about the same margin, 52-48 percent. The Washington state campaign was also the costliest campaign in that state’s history, with marriage equality advocates outspending opponents by a wide margin. Interestingly enough, along with Colorado, Washington also legalized the cultivation and selling of cannabis, making it the first U.S. state where both recreational cannabis and same-sex marriage are legal. (The ULC Monastery supports the use of cannabis for medical reasons.)
These seminal victories in the struggle for religious freedom and personal liberty are both inspiring and galvanizing. Hopefully, with enough commitment to the ideals of fairness and equality, these results will prove to be a victory for all people everywhere.