Past ballot fights over same-sex marriage were dispiriting for gay activists — partly because of the indignity of seeing basic rights put up for a popular vote, and partly because marriage opponents kept winning. This year, though, Minnesota rejected a constitutional ban, and Maine, Maryland, and Washington voted to legalize same-sex marriage. Better tactics helped: Instead of appealing, as past campaigns did, to abstract ideals of civil rights, this year’s ads featured gay couples and their relatives talking directly about their families. Yet this week’s results also showed voters’ ever-greater tolerance. President Obama won reelection after expressing support for same-sex marriage. Wisconsin elected an openly lesbian US senator.
The fight over marriage isn’t finished yet; 30 states now have bans written into their constitutions. But same-sex marriage is clearly on a road from unthinkable to unremarkable, and Tuesday was a milestone.