US states back pot, gay marriage

2012-11-07 09:20
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Los Angeles - US states backed legalising marijuana for recreational use, allowed gay marriage and rejected a call to ban public funding for abortions, in a swathe of state-wide ballots on Tuesday.

The generally liberal moves were decided among more than 170 ballot initiatives and referendums held across the country, as it re-elected Democratic President Barack Obama for four more years.

Obama came out in favour of gay marriage months before the election which pitted him against Republican rival Mitt Romney, who insists that marriage should be reserved for a relationship between a man and a woman.

During his first four-year term Obama had also fulfilled a pledge to repeal the controversial Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) law banning openly gay servicemen and women from serving in the US military.

Three states voted on Tuesday to legalise same-sex marriage, including Maine - which voted in a referendum against it in 2009, but reversed that decision with 54% in favour to 46% against.

Washington state and Maryland also appeared set to approve the move, which had already been passed by state lawmakers. Both states voted 52-48% in favour, according to CNN projections based on partial results.

Light it up

Same-sex marriage is not federally recognised, but it was already legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia. It is constitutionally banned in 31 states.

Meanwhile three states - Colorado, Washington and Oregon - voted on proposals to legalise marijuana including for recreational use, going further than a number of states which already allow it for medicinal purposes.

Colorado backed the move by 54% in favour to 46% against, and Washington by 55% to 45%, according to CNN citing partial results. Oregon rejected it by 56% to 44%, it said.

Florida voters meanwhile rejected a proposal to ban the use of public funds for abortion or for insurance coverage for the service, according to partial results.

Fifty-five percent of voters rejected Florida's so-called Amendment 6, with 45% in favour, according to NBC and CNN.

Abortion has long been a hugely divisive issue in America, with many Republicans fiercely opposed. During the campaign two Republican politicians made controversial comments which fuelled the debate.

Death penalty

In Missouri Republican candidate Todd Akin triggered a firestorm by suggesting that a women's body could shut down conception in cases of "legitimate rape".

Then more recently in a hotly contested Senate race in Indiana, Republican Richard Mourdock was criticised for suggesting that if a woman becomes pregnant from rape, it is "something that God intended to happen".

Both Akin and Mourdock were beaten in their respective poll races on Tuesday, according to US networks.

Other closely watched ballot races included two in California: One to force food companies to provide labels for genetically modified (GM) ingredients in their products, which appeared set for rejection.

A vote on banning the death penalty - replacing it with life in prison without parole - appeared set to be rejected with 56% against and 44% in favour, according to CNN with 25% of votes counted.

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