More and more Americans, particularly the young, regard lesbians and gay men as a fully accepted, mainstream minority within the nation's larger population. That feeling, no doubt, helped make Tuesday's referenda in several states historic for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Voters in three states -- Maryland, Maine and Washington -- overwhelmingly approved legislation that makes same-sex marriage legal. Voters in Minnesota rejected an amendment to the state Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriage. These actions alone would be a highly conspicuous political victory for the LGBT community, but there were additional meaningful signs of acceptance from broader society.
Voters in Wisconsin elected Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate. She will be the first openly gay member of that body. Voters elsewhere also sent at least six lesbian and gay members to the U.S. House. That's a record. Still, the gains in public acceptance of gays and lesbians signaled by Tuesday's results must be tempered by the fact that such favor is far from universal.
Thirty states still have constitutional amendments that ban gay marriage, and others have laws that effectively do the same. The climate for changing those laws is much improved following Tuesday's results. It has to be. More than 30 previous efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in various states had been defeated in the previous 14 years. The victories Tuesday certainly change the political equation.
Indeed, the triumphs Tuesday should give new energy to efforts already underway to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island and Delaware next year. They might re-ignite similar campaigns in Illinois and Oregon as well. It is likely, too, that approval will inspire similar attempts in states where same-sex marriage advocates previously felt that the political climate was not congenial to their cause.
Legislative attempts to reverse same-sex marriage bans will continue. The next step in the campaign to guarantee marriage equality will be in the courts. Sometime soon, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to hear cases involving a California law that bans same-sex marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies recognition of same-sex unions. Lower courts have found both to be unconstitutional. The high court should accept both cases and rule in favor of gay marriage.
That might anger some, but it undoubtedly would please the many Americans who have signaled their approval of same sex marriage at the ballot box and in a multitude of public opinion polls.