CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tuesday's election did more than reaffirm the Obama presidency and put more Democrats into Congress. It also provided a barometer measuring how America keeps evolving into a more tolerant, accepting, live-and-let-live society.
For the first time, voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington state approved same-sex marriage -- even though the Republican-passed federal Defense of Marriage Act forbids it and hidebound church leaders attack it. Further, Minnesota voters rejected a fundamentalist attempt to ban gay wedlock.
These votes are victories in the long struggle for gay equality. Dramatically, they rebuke church conservatives who denounce homosexuals as wicked, and also repudiate the Republican Party, whose platform would outlaw same-sex marriage.
The election results show that an increasing number of Americans agree with President Obama, who publicly endorsed gay weddings. The outcome will strengthen his White House effort to repeal the GOP's DOMA, which says only male-female couples may wed. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire called Tuesday's result "a turning point for equality."
Incidentally, evangelist Franklin Graham told reporters that God will inflict "destruction" on America because voters re-elected President Obama. The preacher accused Obama of "waving his fist before God" by supporting same-sex marriage and women's right to choose. Both Graham and his legendary father, Billy, stopped listing Mormonism as a "cult" and backed Mormon Mitt Romney's losing campaign.
History will show that the evangelists are out of step with America's cultural tide. Just as blacks gradually won legal equality in America, gays are moving toward full acceptance as fellow citizens. The march of human rights and democratic freedoms is a never-ending process.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay person ever elected to the U.S. Senate -- and five other openly gay Democrats won seats in the House of Representatives.
Women also made strides Tuesday. The U.S. Senate will have 20 women next year, an all-time record. All Congress members from New Hampshire will be female, along with the governor. Women voters strongly supported President Obama, whose medical reform provides free birth control to all.
Here's another display of American tolerance: Colorado and Washington voters approved marijuana-smoking, making it as legal as wine-sipping, cigarette-puffing and whisky-quaffing. (Ramifications of these votes are uncertain, because federal law still makes pot usage a crime.) Further, Massachusetts approved medical pot to relieve suffering, as 17 other states have done.
Maryland voters also approved table games in casinos, further erasing old taboos against gambling.
Florida voters strongly rejected an amendment to ban health insurance coverage of abortion.
California voters almost halted the death penalty, but the ballot initiative narrowly failed. We hope it passes on the next attempt.
Every culture advances, changes, evolves. America moves steadily away from Puritanical strictures, toward more personal liberty and individual rights. It's progress, we think.
USA Today columnist Amanda Marcotte said the election outcome shows that "Republicans have lost the culture war." Business Week columnist Joshua Green summed up:
"The real landslide on Tuesday was broader and deeper than the presidential race. Up and down the ticket, from candidate races to ballot initiatives, a liberal landslide swept the country."