In historic first, gay marriage is approved by popular vote in Maine, Maryland

In an historic election night for the gay rights movement, voters in Maine and Maryland became the first in the country to approve same-sex marriage, breaking a 32-state losing streak.

According to the Associated Press, Maine passed a ballot measure legalizing it on Tuesday night—an issue put on the ballot by gay marriage supporters—while voters in Maryland approved a law legalizing gay marriage that was actually passed earlier this year by the state legislature. The Washington Post reports that gay couples in Maryland will be able to wed starting Jan. 1.

Gay marriage is on the ballot in four states. Voters in Washington state are weighing in on a similar referendum, while Minnesota voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have solidified a ban on gay marriage. It remains illegal in the state after Tuesday's vote.

"It's hard to overstate the national significance of this vote," Mark Solomon, the national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, which supports gay marriage, said in a statement about the Maine initiative. "For years, our opponents have argued that we could not win a majority vote at the ballot. Today, Maine voters proved them wrong, standing up for the Golden Rule and for freedom for all Mainers."

Maine and Maryland join six other states—Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa, Vermont, New York and Connecticut—and the District of Columbia to allow gay marriage.

Tuesday's election was the first time gay marriage was on the ballot since President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to declare his support for it in May. It also marked another milestone for gay rights advocates: Wisconsin Democrat Rep. Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay candidate elected to the U.S. Senate.

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