Maryland, Maine, Washington approve same-sex marriage; 2 states legalize pot

(CNN) -- Ballot measures approving same-sex marriage and the recreational use of marijuana were approved Tuesday by voters in a handful of states, signaling a historical social shift by popular vote.

Voters in Maine approved for the first time in history a measure that gives the right to same-sex couples to marry, while in Maryland voters also made history by upholding a new law allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state, according to CNN projections. A couple of percentage points were all that separated similar measures in Minnesota and Washington, initial returns showed.

Colorado and Washington, meanwhile, voted to approve state initiatives legalizing marijuana, while Oregon voters turned away a similar initiative, projections show.

"The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement released late Tuesday.

"That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."

Even as voters returned President Barack Obama to office for a second term, according to CNN projections, a key component of his signature health care reform law was on the line in a number of states.

In Alabama and Wyoming, voters approved measures to amend their state constitution to prohibit people from being compelled to participate in Obamacare, while early returns in Montana showed voters approving similar measures.

The one exception appears to be Florida, where voters turned back a measure that would have prohibited people and businesses from participating in Obamacare.

"These laws may promise more than they can deliver," said Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School.

"What the laws certainly do is to give state officials more of a basis to go to court and challenge the national health care law."

Voters nationwide were deciding the outcome of nearly 180 ballot measures in 38 states. That's up from 159 in 2010, but down from 204 in 2008.

Voters in Florida, meanwhile, nixed a constitutional amendment that would have banned the use of public funds for abortions, according to a CNN projection.

The campaign pitted the Protect Florida Taxpayers and Parental Rights, which was primarily funded by a large collection of Catholic archdioceses across Florida, against Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood spent $3.2 million on ads to defeat the measure in Florida during the week heading into the election.

"The people of Florida have sent a clear message that politicians have no place in a woman's deeply personal and private medical decisions," said Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.


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