Gay-Marriage Supporters Do Well In State Elections

Nov 7, 2012
Originally published on November 7, 2012 7:31 am



Americans were not just voting for candidates yesterday - many people were voting on ballot issues and NPR's David Greene is in our studios to talk about the results. David, good morning once again.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Hey there, Steve.

INSKEEP: Many measures - several of them, anyway - on same-sex marriage. What was at stake and what were the results?

GREENE: Well, there were four states voting on the question of same-sex marriage and we're still waiting to get the results from one state - Washington. It's still too close to call. But in the state of Minnesota, voters turned back a proposed ban on same-sex marriage. But the real news seemed to come from the states of Maine and Maryland.

This is something new in this whole debate. It was the first time that, by popular vote, voters took up the question of should same-sex marriage be legal in my state, and a majority said yes. I mean, in the past we've had lawmakers take up this issue. Courts have obviously taken this issue up. But this is the first time that there was a vote saying yes to same-sex marriage.

INSKEEP: And you get a sense from that Minnesota case, how different that is from the rest of the country. In Minnesota, and you'll correct me if I'm wrong, there was a proposal to add to the constitution a ban on same-sex marriage. That failed, but even though it failed there's a state law that bans same-sex marriage, if I'm not mistaken, in Minnesota. So it actually - it's still illegal to do this in Minnesota.

But here are two states where people voted to allow it. Is that right?

GREENE: That's right. I mean, the difference is there's a lot of nuance, but significant that voters actually say we want to make it legal. Much more simple and much more important, this way.

INSKEEP: This is part of a trend.

GREENE: Not clear. I mean, people who support same-sex marriage say that they are sensing a, you know, a trend in their direction in the country. More people are becoming open to marriages between two men, two women. The polls, you know, you look at a Gallup Poll from last year, 53 percent of people in this country support the idea of same-sex marriage.

That was the first time it was a majority. It's dropped a bit, to 50 percent now. You know, it's clear that this is still an issue that divides a lot of the country. There's a federal law - the Defense of Marriage Act - that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. President Obama does not support that law but it is the law of the land.

And the next big battle in this whole debate is probably going to come when that law, DOMA, is before the Supreme Court. Which could be very soon.

INSKEEP: Let's talk about another issue that divides people and that was on some ballots - marijuana.

GREENE: Yeah. Voters in Colorado and Washington approved marijuana use, not just for medical purposes, but for recreational purposes. It will be taxed and regulated just like alcohol. We should say that Oregon voters rejected recreational use of marijuana. But, Steve, if you're a person in Seattle, Washington now, you're over 21 years old, you would be allowed to buy an ounce of marijuana from a licensed retailer.

Now, here's the big caveat. Federal law prohibits the use of marijuana. It's an illegal drug. It's not clear how state officials are going to handle this. Colorado's governor came out and said, you know, he's going to respect the will of voters in his state but he said federal law says marijuana is illegal so, as he put it, don't break out the Cheetos or the Goldfish too quickly.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, keep that...

GREENE: Whatever that means.

INSKEEP: Well, I can't imagine what they were talking about there. So there were also tax issues on the ballot. Ballot measures used to be famous as a way to limit taxes or even lower taxes.


INSKEEP: There were some measures about raising taxes here.

GREENE: Yeah. California. You don't hear voters supporting raising taxes every day, but California's governor Jerry Brown made a plea to voters that he desperately needs more money for public education and to try and balance California's state budget. And voters were apparently listening - enough of them, at least - somewhere around 40 percent of California voters agreed to have their taxes raised by billions of dollars over the next seven years.

INSKEEP: OK. Just a few seconds left. Does Detroit get another bridge to Canada?

GREENE: Detroit does get another bridge to Canada. That was a big question for voters in Michigan. There was a millionaire who already has a bridge. He built a bridge across to Canada. He didn't want another one but voters said we want another one.

INSKEEP: So you've got to - even though you've got your toll revenues from the one bridge, there's going to be another bridge.

GREENE: More bridge to Canada.

INSKEEP: OK, David. Thanks very much.

GREENE: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's David Greene. Part of our Election Day morning after coverage right here on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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