While President Barack Obama was piling up electoral votes on the way to winning a second term Tuesday night, several states were counting ballot measures that point to significant changes in the nation's social attitudes. For some, this was the day when controversial measures became conventional.
The most portentous victories came in Maine, Maryland and Washington state, where voters approved same-sex marriage. For good measure, Minnesota rejected a proposal that would have restricted marriage to heterosexual unions.
The half dozen states that previously allowed gay couples to marry did so through their legislators or courts, a point of contention for opponents who blamed activist judges or liberal lawmakers for approving what the public would not.
That seemed to be the case -- until this week. Gay marriage lost 32 times straight when it was put up for a popular vote. Yet public opinion polls have suggested increasing tolerance on the issue, as Americans have become used to the idea. They have seen that heterosexual marriages and the institution of marriage itself are not threatened, despite what opponents have argued.
The three victories suggest which way the tide of tolerance seems to be running, even if it still has a long way to run before Pennsylvania and other socially conservative states accept the idea. The results increased the likelihood the U.S. Supreme Court would take up a case testing the constitutionality of a federal law denying recognition of gay marriages.
The times they are a-changing and attitudes to gay marriage are not the only evidence. On Tuesday, voters in Washington state and Colorado legalized the use of marijuana as a recreational drug. This is a step beyond medical marijuana and puts these states at odds with federal law. Where will it all end? Perhaps with an America focused on far more important issues than people pursuing happiness in their own ways.