STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now, let's talk about the votes on gay marriage. Minnesota said no to a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as strictly between a man and a woman, one of several victories for supporters of gay rights.
Our colleague David Greene has been following the story. David, good morning.
DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.
INSKEEP: So what happened?
GREENE: Well, you mentioned this Minnesota vote which would turn back a proposed ban on same-sex marriage. Well, we're waiting for results from Washington State that still too close to call on the initiative. But the two states that really are interesting last night, Maine and Maryland. Voters went to the polls with this question: Do I want my state to legally allow same-sex marriage. They both voted - majorities voted yes.
And it was the first time that by popular vote people went to the polls with this question, this affirmative question: Do I want my state to allow same-sex marriage and voters said yes.
INSKEEP: You said the first time. This has never happened before you're saying.
GREENE: It's never happened before. You know, this question has come up before in all sorts of ways. Courts have taken up the question. There's been the questions like the one in Minnesota, you know, do I or do I not support a ban on same-sex marriage. First time that by popular vote voters said yes on same-sex marriage.
INSKEEP: And this addresses what up to now has seemed like a contradiction. If you look at the surveys, if you look at polling, there's been an increase of acceptance of the notion of gay rights. Or just the existence of gay people living openly in the United States, there's been a steady increase over the years. But whenever it's been put up for a vote in the past it's been voted down.
Now something else seems to be happening, at least in these two states. That's what you're saying.
GREENE: Well, supporters of same-sex marriage, they would argue that there is a trend in the country right now. But there's no doubt that this remains a very divisive issue. We had these votes last night that, you know, is undeniably a good night for supporters of same-sex marriage. There's the president now reelected who has come out and said that he supports same-sex marriage.
But, you know, a Gallup poll came out last year, 53 percent of Americans support the idea of same-sex marriage. Support dropped slightly this year to 50 percent. Really divisive and they're going to be more questions coming up. I mean there's this federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act - that is the law of the land even though President Obama does not support it - the Supreme Court might be taking that up at some point soon. And that might be the next way that this question really comes up in a big way.
INSKEEP: Let's talk about one other issue that was voted on yesterday. Alabama voters voted on some constitutional changes. What happened?
GREENE: Yeah, really, really interesting vote and you talked about it on the show yesterday. They faced the sensitive question: Should they remove this archaic language that really seems racist from their constitution that talked about dividing black-and-white schoolchildren in different schools. Alabama voters said no, they don't want to remove that language.
But as so many ballot initiatives go, it's so much more complicated than that. There are a lot of African-American leaders in Alabama who wanted to keep the language in the Constitution...
GREENE: ...because they felt like changing it would just make matters worse. It's so convoluted as it is, they said making changes trying to fix it would only make things worse.
INSKEEP: So, they'll leave it alone. It's inoperative language, I guess because of federal law that supersedes it. Is that right?
GREENE: It doesn't seem to be in operation that much but the language is still sitting there. There probably will be more attempts to take it out with this one failed.
INSKEEP: OK. Thanks very much, David.
GREENE: You're welcome, Steve.
INSKEEP: NPR's David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.