December 21, 2012 Articles

Same-Sex Marriage: Redefining the Movement

By Emily Babcock

The balance has been tipped. For the first time in history, more than half of Americans support same-sex marriage. In four states, that support bore out at the polls during the November election. Same-sex marriage was on the ballot in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. In an election that was unlike every popular election before it, the majority of the electorate in these states showed that they supported same-sex marriage. In three states—Maine, Maryland, and Washington—voters approved ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage. In Minnesota, voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have enshrined its current law—that marriage is between one man and one woman—in the state's constitution.

This shift redefines the movement. Prior to this election, no state had ever legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote. Moreover, no proposed amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman had ever been defeated. (Anti-same-sex-marriage amendments had passed in more than 30 statewide votes.) Not only did these historic firsts occur, they occurred across the board in all states considering the issue. The idea that marriage equality could be won by popular vote, rather than exclusively through the courts or the state legislatures, separates the same-sex marriage movement from other civil-rights movements before it.

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