The victories went beyond four gay-marriage ballot initiatives and represent what one advocate calls "a breathtaking leap forward."
Tuesday's election was a landmark for gay-rights advocates in so many ways it's hard to count them all. Not only did voters in four states choose the pro-gay-marriage side of ballot measures, the U.S. Senate got its first openly gay member and a record number of openly gay legislators won up and down the ballot. The down-ballot victories include a judicial fight in Iowa and two states that are poised to have openly gay state House speakers. A brief summary:
* Maine: This ballot initiative ratifying gay marriage, which passed 53-47, stands out from the rest because it was a fight gay-marriage advocates took upon themselves -- unlike every other ballot fight, which has been sparked by marriage opponents putting the issue to the vote. The backstory: After the state legislature passed same-sex marriage in Maine in 2009, opponents put it on the ballot and voters rejected it. But gay-marriage advocates didn't give up; they collected signatures to put the issue on the ballot again in 2012, and this time they won.
* Washington and Maryland: In both of these states, the legislature passed same-sex marriage but opponents petitioned to put the issue up to a vote. After hard-fought campaigns, voters affirmed both laws, by similar 52-48 margins.