Washington became the fourth and final state Tuesday to endorse same-sex marriage in a historic election night victory. The Evergreen state joins Maine, Maryland and Minnesota in giving supporters of gay marriage a clean sweep. Voters in these same states also chose President Obama over GOP challenger Mitt Romney.
Known as Referendum 74, the issue was leading by a slight margin of 51.8 percent to 48.2 percent and was expected to pass as final votes are being tallied on Wednesday. The state rejected gay marriage by a similar margin in 2009.
The issue in each of these states came with high expectations given that voters had rejected gay marriage the last 32 times the issue had appeared on a ballot. North Carolina was the last state to do so in May of this year.
But supporters of traditional marriage knew they had their work cut out for them as each of the four states had heavy concentrations of Democratic voting blocs that would prove to be key if the measures were to be approved.
While voters in Washington, Maine and Maryland voted to allow same-sex marriage, voters in Minnesota turned back a proposed constitutional amendment that would have prohibited same-sex marriage if it were approved by law.
"The tide has turned – when voters have the opportunity to really hear directly from loving, committed same-sex couples and their families, they voted for fairness," said Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign, a gay-rights group.
Gay rights activists were highly organized and had a significant funding advantage by an estimated margin of 10 to 1 over supporters of traditional marriage. Numerous wealthy business executives and politicians, such as Bill Gates of Microsoft and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, contributed millions to the cause.
It is projected that $12 million was raised in Washington State to support the ballot issue. Opponents of same-sex marriage raised slightly over $1 million.
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Freedom to Marry, a group that helped organizers in all four states, worked to dispel what they considered myths of marriage by talking more about commitment, love and responsibility when trying to win voters to their side. And President Obama's public support of same-sex marriage, no doubt, also helped push the referendums' passage.
During Obama's first campaign in 2008 and throughout the first half of his first term, Obama stated he supported traditional marriage between a man and a woman. However, he had instructed the Department of Justice and other agencies not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and repealed the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policies instituted by President Bill Clinton.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Maryland voters approved same-sex marriage by a vote of 52 to 48 percent. Maine voters approved it by 52 to 47 percent, and Minnesota voters defeated a proposed constitutional amendment by 51 to 48 percent.