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Editorial: Gay marriage victories a big step for U.S.

Rick Sturgiol right his partner 34 years Jim Malatak cheer an electiwatch party for proponents Referendum 74 which would uphold

Rick Sturgiol, right, and his partner of 34 years Jim Malatak cheer at an election watch party for proponents of Referendum 74, which would uphold the state's new same-sex marriage law, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

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Updated: December 9, 2012 7:28PM

Opponents of same-sex marriage have proudly noted for years that gay marriage never wins when it’s put to voters.

On Tuesday, that potent argument took a serious hit.

Maine and Maryland became the first states to approve gay marriage by popular vote. Washington State appeared headed for the same result, though final results were incomplete on Wednesday.

And in Minnesota, voters defeated a constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage.

“Even one of these victories would have been unprecedented,” said Camilla Taylor, national marriage project director for Lambda Legal. Taylor’s Chicago-based office has filed a lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Illinois. A bill to allow same-sex marriage also comes up regularly in the state Legislature.

With Washington, a total of nine states plus D.C. soon will allow same-sex marriage. The first six came through the courts or state legislation. It was only a matter of time before the next shoe — victory via the popular vote — would drop.

Opponents of gay marriage point out that more than 30 states, including Illinois, have laws or constitutional provisions defining marriage as between a man and a woman. They dismiss the newest three states to embrace gay marriage as blue states, though no one would write off Maine as a hippie haven or Minnesota, home to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, as uber liberal.

There’s no denying change is afoot. Just eight years ago, no states allowed gay marriage. This summer, a Pew Research Center poll found that 48 percent of Americans support gay marriage, up from 31 percent in 2004. In September, an Illinois poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute showed a 10-percentage point increase in support for gay marriage in just two years, up to 43.6 percent.

On Tuesday, America took yet another step — this time a big one — on the road toward equality for all.

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