US states back pot, gay marriage, in liberal sweep

AFP , Wednesday 7 Nov 2012

Liberal politics triumphed on Tuesday as the US electorate voted Obama back in to office and certain states voted to legalise marijuana, allow gay marriage and keep public funding for abortions

US states voted Tuesday to legalize marijuana, allow gay marriage and keep public funding for abortions, in a string of liberal poll decisions accompanying Barack Obama's re-election.

The moves were decided among more than 170 ballot initiatives and referendums held across the country, as America voted the Democratic president back in for four more years.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, whose state is one of two to legalize marijuana for recreational as well as medicinal purposes, accepted his western state's vote -- albeit with tongue in cheek.

"The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will ... That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug," he said, referring to nationwide legislation which conflicts with a number of states' own laws.

"So don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly," he said, referring to two popular brands of cheesy snacks. Marijuana is known to stimulate the appetite.

Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage months before the election pitting him against Republican rival Mitt Romney, who insists that marriage should be reserved for a relationship between a man and a woman.

During his first four-year term Obama had also fulfilled a pledge to repeal the controversial Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) law banning openly gay servicemen and women from serving in the US military.

Three states voted Tuesday to legalize same-sex marriage, including Maine -- which voted in a referendum against it in 2009, but reversed that decision with 53 percent in favor to 47 percent against.

Washington state and Maryland also appeared set to approve the move, which had already been passed by state lawmakers. Both states voted 52-48 percent in favor, according to CNN projections based on partial results.

Same-sex marriage is not federally recognized, but it was already legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia. It is constitutionally banned in 31 states.

Meanwhile three states -- Colorado, Washington and Oregon -- voted on proposals to legalize marijuana, including for recreational use, going further than a number of states which already allow it for medicinal purposes.

Colorado backed the move by 54 percent in favor to 46 percent against, and Washington by 55 percent to 45 percent, according to CNN citing partial results. Oregon rejected it by 56 percent to 44 percent, it said.

In other closely watched initiatives, California rejected a move to ban the death penalty, and one to enforce labeling of genetically-modified (GM) foodstuffs -- which would have been a US first if passed.

In a more local vote, Los Angeles County voted to oblige porn actors to wear condoms while on set -- the San Fernando Valley north of LA is the center of the US pornographic film industry.

Florida voters meanwhile rejected a proposal to ban the use of public funds for abortion or for insurance coverage for the service, according to partial results.

Fifty-five percent of voters rejected Florida's so-called Amendment 6, with 45 percent in favor, according to NBC and CNN.

Abortion has long been a hugely divisive issue in America, with many Republicans fiercely opposed. During the campaign two Republican politicians made controversial comments which fueled the debate.

In Missouri Republican candidate Todd Akin triggered a firestorm by suggesting that a women's body could shut down conception in cases of "legitimate rape."

More recently, in a hotly contested Senate race in Indiana, Republican Richard Mourdock was criticized for suggesting that if a woman becomes pregnant from rape, it is "something that God intended to happen."

Both Akin and Mourdock were beaten in their respective poll races on Tuesday.

Short link: