Americans Vote For Gay Marriage And Marijuana

Voters in four American states made history on Tuesday by approving same-sex marriage and recreational marijuana use.

Maine and Maryland became the first to allow same-sex couples to marry by a popular vote rather than legislation or court order, as is the case in six other states and Washington DC.

"For the first time, voters in Maine and Maryland voted to allow loving couples to make lifelong commitments through marriage, forever taking away the right-wing talking point that marriage equality couldn't win on the ballot," said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign.

Washington is also awaiting the results of a vote on the issue. Minnesota voted against placing a ban in the state constitution, but same-sex marriage remains illegal there under statute.   

Brian Brown from the National Organisation for Marriage, insisted the results did not mark a watershed moment.

"Just because two extreme blue states vote for gay marriage doesn't mean the Supreme Court will create a constitutional right for it out of thin air," he said.

Colorado and Washington's votes to legalise recreational marijuana use have set up a showdown with the federal government, which outlaws the drug.

Smokers over 21 years old in Colorado will be allowed an ounce of the drug and six plants for private use.

Washington's measure establishes a system of state-licenced suppliers, potentially bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue.

"Marijuana policy reform remains an issue where the people lead and the politicians follow," said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, which opposes the so-called "war on drugs".

''But Washington state shows that many politicians are beginning to catch up."

Oregon voted against a similar marijuana legalisation measure.

In Massachusetts, voters approved a measure to allow marijuana use but only for medical reasons, joining 17 other states.

Arkansas rejected a similar measure.

In California, with 95% of the ballot counted, voters looked to have rejected a proposal to ban the death penalty.

Had the measure prevailed, over 720 inmates on death row would have had their sentences converted to life in prison without parole.

While 17 states have ended capital punishment, most did so through legislative action.

Only in Oregon, in 1964, did voters choose to repeal the death penalty, although they later chose to reinstate it.

In Massachusetts, where assisted suicide was on the ballot, supporters of a question legalising doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill conceded defeat Wednesday morning, even though the vote was too close to call.

Los Angeles County voters also chose to require porn actors to wear condoms on set.

Producers will be required to apply for a permit, which will pay for random inspections.

In Arizona, a side ballot to decide whether the Grand Canyon should be brought back under state control was defeated by two votes to one.

The proposal would have amended the Arizona Constitution to dodge federal environmental laws and open up 25 million acres to more agriculture and industry.

Opponents successfully argued that the state could not afford to maintain the land it already owns.

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