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Ballot questions

Same-sex marriage approved in Maine, Md., and Wash.

NEW YORK­ — Maine voters approved same-sex marriage Tuesday, giving the gay-rights movement a breakthrough victory.

Several states had a chance in this election to be the first to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote and to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

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Gay-rights advocates also were trying to break the streak in Maryland and Washington. Minnesota voted on whether to place a ban on gay marriage in the state Constitution. Incomplete returns showed close contests in Maryland.

In both Maryland and Washington, gay marriage laws were approved by lawmakers and signed by the governors earlier this year, but opponents gathered enough signatures to challenge the laws.

Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and the District of Columbia — in each case the result of legislation or court orders, not by a vote of the people.

Marijuana legalization was on the ballot in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado; each measure would allow adults to possess small amounts of the drug under a regimen of state regulation and taxation. The Oregon proposal had lagged, but the Washington and Colorado measures were believed to have a decent chance to pass.

If approved, the measures would set up a direct challenge to federal drug law.

In Massachusetts, voters approved a measure to allow marijuana use for medical reasons, joining 17 other states. Arkansas voters were deciding on a similar measure.

In California, voters were deciding whether to repeal the state’s death penalty. If the measure prevailed, more than 720 inmates on death row there would have their sentences converted to life in prison.

There were 176 measures on the ballots in 38 states, according to the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California.

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