COLLEGE PARK – In a historic vote, Marylanders approved same-sex marriage Tuesday, breaking a 32-state streak of voters rejecting gay marriage by popular vote.
Supporters won with a 51.9-48.1 split.
“Everybody should be able to love somebody and get married,” said Valerie Millings, 52, at the Northwood Elementary School polling place in Baltimore. “And they can pay taxes, while they’re at it.”
Voters in Maine also approved a ballot measure on same-sex marriage. Votes in Washington are still being counted, but supporters are ahead 52-48 with 62-percent of precincts reporting. Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage
“We’re setting an example for the rest of the country,” said Brendon Ayanbadejo, Baltimore Ravens linebacker and outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage. “Some states are kind of behind the ball. Maryland’s going to lead the way. We’re going to show everybody else how to do it the right way.”
Supporters of same-sex marriage said it’s a civil rights issue that comes down to equal treatment for all. Opponents countered that it’s about protecting the sanctity of marriage.
“The Bible says marriage is between one man and one woman,” said Melvin Smith, 68, at the Northwood Elementary School polling place in Baltimore. “I don’t want gay marriage out in the open like they’ve been campaigning for. I don’t care if they’re together, but they should keep it to themselves.”
This election was the first to see same-sex marriage on the ballot since President Barack Obama announced his support of marriage equality last spring.
“It makes sense to me for these people to have their rights…even though my church doesn’t believe in it,” said Anne Quinn, 62, at the Stone Mill Elementary School polling place in North Potomac.
Though polls leading up to the election showed a healthy margin of success for the ballot measure, supporters were nervous that those numbers wouldn’t carry through to the results – a common problem in other states where same-sex marriage failed when put to a popular vote. But Gov. Martin O’Malley said Obama’s support of the issue and his popularity in Maryland would help carry it through.
“People have come to associate this issue with his vision of a country that’s growing not only more prosperous but also more inclusive,” O’Malley said. “So I think, for that reason, you won’t see quite the Election Day slippage here in Maryland that you’ve seen in other states.”
The Democratic Party added support of same sex marriage to its platform at its national convention in Charlotte.
Volunteers spent months staffing nightly phone banks, canvassing door-to-door and finding ways to make same-sex marriage a personal issue for voters.
Maine and Maryland became the seventh and eighth states alongside the district to legalize same-sex marriage.
“I think the people of our state understand our diversity is our greatest strength and we can protect religious freedom and individual rights equally under the law,” O’Malley said. “I believe the people of our state are always forward moving and are not prone to restrict the rights of other people.”
Capital News Service’s Julie Baughman contributed to this report.