Same-Sex Marriage On Track To Be Approved By Voters In Up To Four States

NBC News reports that voters facing the choice at the ballot box seem likely to endorse same-sex marriage:

After losing some 30 ballots on same-sex marriage across the country over the past decade, advocates of lesbian and gay couples are encouraged by polls showing they have a good chance of finally logging their first victory in a statewide popular vote.

Polls show majorities back same-sex marriage in Maryland, Washington and Maine, and they indicate a tight battle in Minnesota – the four states holding votes on the issue in November.

We’re feeling positive. The reality is, we haven’t won a ballot measure on marriage yet,” said Sarah Warbelow, state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. “I think it’s very reasonable and realistic to expect that we’ll win one or more of these ballot measures; certainly the polling suggests that all four are … a possibility.”

Polling ahead of such ballots has not always accurately captured voters’ sentiment: In California in 2008, the same-sex marriage camp had a majority, though the ban on gay and lesbian marriage ultimately prevailed. In North Carolina, polls had predicted a closer race in the May ballot on the constitutional amendment (a 16-point difference, according to Public Policy Polling at the time), but the anti-gay marriage camp won by more than 20 points.

The memory of what happened with Proposition 8 is reason enough to doubt these polls, especially since that vote took place at the same time that an overwhelming number of Californians voted to elect Barack Obama.  Times have changed since then, of course. Proposition 8 has suffered two defeats in the Courts, public polling has indicated increased support for same-sex marriage, and there have been several additional victories for the cause at the state legislative level in states such as New York and New Hampshire. So, there’s a possibility that things could be different this time, especially when you look at the polls:

— In Maine, 53 percent said they will vote to back the initiative to institute gay marriage, compared to 44 percent who are opposed, according to Public Policy Polling (PPP), a firm that works for Democratic candidates and progressive causes. The mid-September poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percent.

— In Maryland, 54 percent said they’ll back the state law that was passed by the legislature earlier this year, compared to 40 percent who are opposed, according to Hart Research Associates, which conducted the July 24-28 poll for Marylanders for Marriage Equality. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percent.

— In Minnesota, the vote was a virtual tie, according to Public Policy Polling’s Sept. 10-11 poll, which had 48 percent supporting the amendment to ban gay marriage, 47 percent opposed and 5 percent undecided. The poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization. The margin of error for the overall survey was  plus or minus 3.4 percent.

— In Washington, 56 percent of voters think the law legalizing same-sex marriage should be upheld, while 38 percent think it should be overturned, and 6 percent are not sure, according to a Sept. 7-9 SurveyUSA poll for KING-5 News in Seattle. The margin of error was plus or minor 4.3 percent.

How this turns out will have to wait for the voters, but the odds that we’ll see voters approve same-sex marriage in at least one, and possibly more, of these four states seems pretty good. If that happens, the last argument of the opponents of same-sex marriage will have been proven wrong.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Gender Issues, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Gustopher says:

    Civil rights really shouldn’t be up for a vote.

    We don’t have referendums (referenda?) to determine if brown people can marry white people, after all.

  2. Delmar says:

    I agree that the voters should be the ones who decide this issue, not the politicians. It doesn’t matter to me how the vote goes: I’m fine either way. What gets me is there is always someone or some group that goes running to some activist judge crying “unfair”. These ballot initiatives should be written with the provision that the results are off limits to judges: the vote stand, unless there is voter fraud. I would also favor provisions that would let counties and communities opt out if they so choose.

  3. Rafer Janders says:

    Our next step: forcing straights to enter into gay marriages…..

  4. Rafer Janders says:


    These ballot initiatives should be written with the provision that the results are off limits to judges: the vote stand, unless there is voter fraud.

    So let me get this, um, straight: you want ballot initiatives to be written with the provision that they are not subject to the laws of the state they are in and of the United States?

    And if someone decided to ignore this provision, how would you want it enforced — do you expect to go running to an activist judge?

  5. David says:

    The great thing about living in the Unied States of America is that we have equal protection under the law… wait, apparently that isn’t true, in the good old U.S. of A the majority gets to decide if you have equal rights or not…

  6. Rick Almeida says:


    Why should voters get to decide what rights people have?

  7. Rick,

    Excellent question

  8. JoshB says:

    I’ve been with my partner for ten years. We are upper middle class, own a home and a business. We are not legally recognized. In less time than it took to renovate my bathroom, Kim Kardashian started and ended a marriage. Britney Spears had a marriage that didn’t last much longer than a David Vitter hooker binge. We are the threat to the sanctity of marriage?

  9. Al says:

    Ah, judicial activism. Where every ruling I agree with is fair and level headed and every one I don’t is the courts overstepping their bounds.

  10. Septimius says:

    @Rick Almeida:

    “Why should voters get to decide what rights people have?”

    Interesting. So, if a supreme court issued a ruling that same-sex marriage violated some state constitution, you would be opposed to a ballot referendum amending that state constitution to allow same-sex marriage. After all, why should the voters get to decide, right?

  11. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Well, up until “an activist Supreme Court overthrew the rights of “murkins to decide for themselves what kinds of marriages they wanted to permit,” it DID take a referendum.
    @Delmar: ” If that happens, the last argument of the opponents of same-sex marriage will have been proven wrong.” Thank you for refuting Doug’s smugness–we needed to remember that there willalways be another argument against any proposition, in this case, it should be decided by the community.
    @Doug Mataconis: No not particularly, Doug. The framers of the social contract, by nature of how such contracts work, decide what rights are available and to whom those rights belong. Ergo, voters do decide what rights people have. If you wish to make a case for anarchy do so–but don’t disguise it as rhetorical gamesmanship against the proposition that voters should decide what rights exist. The practice of voters deciding what rights people have–either through their elected representatives or through referendum when those representatives are spinless or corrupt–is how a republic works.

  12. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @JoshB: No, but we have met the enemy and he is most decidedly us.

  13. Andre Kenji says:

    I would accept people voting about gay marriage if only gay people were allowed to vote.

  14. Al says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    Look, I know you’re ignorant and all but you do realize one of the pillars of the legislative branch is the protection on minority rights, don’t you? The whole point of the senate is to insure that smaller states have a voice that can be heard. (And to make sure that state governments were represented at the federal level until we ditched that.)

    The idea of that the majority could just do whatever it wants is an anathema to the constitution and the reason we live in a republic as opposed to a direct democracy. Or would you prefer that the voters be able to take away your gun rights?

  15. Console says:


    If same-sex marriage is ruled to violate a state constitution, then that’s an affirmation of state power. Voter’s are entirely within their power to reign in state power in light of such a ruling. But they don’t have the power to violate the rights of the people, ever.

  16. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Al: Yes I do, but only to the extent that society agrees to protect the minority element. I am talking about the practice of creating the norms–as Locke, among others, noted, the nature of the social contract is that people surrender rights that they don’t value in return for securities that they value more. Locke did not claim that laws so derived would always be morally superior or have any level of equality to them. Just that because they were arrived at from a consensus that they would be able to produce a more stable union

    The final outcome of that process is that the rights of minority elements in society can only be protected to the extent that those in power are courageous enough to do so (as I noted in my initial statetment).

    But after all is said and done–yes, my gun rights are only secure to the extent that society values my having a gun (a scary proposition, indeed). And by the way, I don’t own one, but continue to support your right to have one because I don’t believe that society will be safer by taking a gun away from you. Should I revise my opinion on that?

  17. Rick Almeida says:


    As far as I know (and I happily speak under correction), every state constitution has an amendment process. Why would a referendum be necessary?

  18. Al says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    Yes I do, but only to the extent that society agrees to protect the minority element.

    So, there shouldn’t be a tyranny of the majority only as long as the majority is OK with that? That sounds like a great way to protect civil liberties.

  19. rudderpedals says:

    @Rick Almeida: Why would a referendum be necessary?

    It gets the very religious to the polls. This and abortion restrictions. If you’re not going to vote about what the queers are doing to our soil you’re just not going to vote at all.

  20. Septimius says:

    @Rick Almeida:

    Because in 49 of 50 states (Delaware being the only exception), the state constitution cannot be amended without a ballot referendum. Some states, like California, allow the citizens to initiate the amendment process by gathering enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot. Some states have a legislative referral process where the legislature can pass an amendment proposal that then goes on the ballot for ratification. Either way, the state constitution cannot be changed without the direct assent of the governed.

    The point of my previous post is to be careful what you wish for. If the voters shouldn’t get to decide what our rights are, then who should? Judges? A judge can just as easily decide that a the definition of marriage is only one man and one woman and that any other type of relationship can never be given the same legal status. What would you do then?

  21. Rick Almeida says:


    A judge can just as easily decide that a the definition of marriage is only one man and one woman and that any other type of relationship can never be given the same legal status.

    Indeed, you have the right of this. I am more comfortable with Federal judges making these decisions than I am with plebiscites or even state judges. I believe our history shows that the decision of the Framers to try to shield the Federal judiciary from political pressure has generally led to appropriate outcomes more often than not.

    I don’t have a great deal of faith in government by referendum.

  22. bill says:

    why not, we can vote for more free stuff too while we’re at it. the fed with open the gates again and all will be well.

  23. Thomas's Paine says:

    4 out of 5 times people chose blue underpants because of their texture, while 5 out of 4 times, people chose orange because of their flexibility.

    This debate makes that much sense. God already decided it all.