Election 2012 gives green light to same-sex marriage, marijuana usage

Even though Tuesday’s election focused mostly on the presidential race, it also brought a series of historic state ballot initiatives that included the legalization of same-sex marriage and recreational marijuana usage.

Marriage equality supporters saw progress in four states. Maine, Maryland and Washington joined the ranks of New York and six other states by voting to fully legalize same-sex marriage. Minnesota voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage.

Natalie Briggs, an LSP freshman who voted in Minnesota by absentee ballot, said she was excited by the decision the voters made in her state.

“I’m happy that many of my friends won’t face discrimination should they choose to marry the person they love in Minnesota,” Briggs said. “This is a really important victory for my community and my state, and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it.”

Emma Lindsay, a sophomore at Bates College in Maine, agreed. Lindsay said she is optimistic about what this ballot initiative could mean for the future of marriage equality.

“It was a long-time coming here, and hopefully Maine will set a precedent for other states who are on the fence about legalizing same-sex marriage,” Lindsay said.

Colorado and Washington also became the first states to approve the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. The U.S. Justice Department said it is reviewing the initiatives but did not comment on how it would proceed. In both states, marijuana users must be at least 21 years old and can only legally purchase marijuana from licensed retailers, whose businesses are subject to state taxation and regulation.

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ine Harrington, a professor of politics at NYU, said much of this decision hinges on fiscal policy at the state level.

“States don’t want to be paying to lock people up for smoking [marijuana] for recreational use,” Harrington said. “So the fiscal politics are coming together to form a coalition with a long enduring movement of [marijuana legalization advocates].”

CAS freshman Richard Perez, a Colorado native and voter, said even though the decision will not affect him, he knows a lot of people in Colorado who are happy.

“I believe it should be up to the states to choose to legalize it or not,” Perez said. “I wouldn’t have an idea if it will become a national trend.”

News organizations said Generation Y voters may have heavily affected the results of these state ballot measures. Fox News exit polls revealed that voters from 18 to 29 made up for 15 to 22 percent of the vote in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington and Colorado. In every decision that was made, the majority of this group was on the winning side. Maryland’s Question 6 to legalize same-sex marriage, for example, received overwhelming support among younger voters, with 70 percent in favor of
its passing.

Harrington said these initiatives reveal a larger trend in state policies.

“In terms of the direction that is going on now as opposed to 2005, 2006 at the state level, the movement is in the direction of expanding civil rights,” she said. “I think that is in line with the national trajectory as well.”

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Nov. 8 print edition. Veronica Carchedi is deputy university editor. Email her at vcarchedi@nyunews.com. 

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