Ever since Proposition 8 passed four years ago banning same-sex marriage in California, polls have been showing a shift in the other direction — increased public support around the country for extending marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. With same-sex marriage measures on four state ballots, the November election will provide the first major test of how much attitudes have progressed on the matter.
In three of those states — Maine, Maryland and Washington state — courageous legislatures passed bills in favor of same-sex marriage. In both Maryland and Washington, the bills were signed into law earlier this year but were placed on hold when opponents forced referendums that will ask voters whether they, also, approve of allowing the states to issue marriage certificates to gay and lesbian couples.
In Maine, the law was approved in 2009, then overturned by referendum. The issue is back on the ballot in the hopes that voters will reverse themselves and approve marriage equality. In Minnesota, it is already prohibited; voters will decide whether to embed that ban in the state constitution.
Poll results in the three states that might legalize same-sex marriage are encouraging. If any of the measures pass, it would be the first time that such rights have become law via a popular vote.