Legalize Marijuana and Gay Marriage: How 2012 Election Showed a Socially Liberal America

This past week, among the implications and aftermath of the U.S. presidential election and Hurricane Sandy — events you may have glimpsed in the headlines a time or two — New York Magazine posed an excellent question in its coverage of pro-weed and pro-gay marriage ballot initiatives: Is America becoming more socially liberal? In a word — yes.

In some more words, NBC News reported that Colorado and Washington voters approved recreational marijuana use with a 54% and 55% passing favor, respectively. Before proponents could light a celebratory joint, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper (who was against the measure) noted that the outcome is not without its legal ramifications — Colorado and Washington can expect to butt heads with the federal government, at which marijuana possession is still a crime, for an as-yet-to-be-determined amount of time. 

The legalization of marijuana was not the only cause for jubilation amid liberal Washington residents (though it may have been the primary reason for the spike in sales of bags of Cheetos) — the passing of Referendum 74, in which state law will recognize same-sex marriage, goes into effect December 6, 2012. Washington joined the ranks of newbies-in-favor of marriage equality, Maine and Maryland, and the previously approved states of New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. Commentary ranged from the explanatory — “Many counties, especially urban ones … will see a sizeable increase in volume on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7., especially because they'll see couples who want to get their licenses and certificates in advance of Dec. 12, for the novelty 12-12-12 anniversary date,” to the er, informal bar banter — “What about the legalization of gay pot?”

Progressive these new laws may be, there are battles to be fought for nation-wide consensus on both issues. To the heart of the matter — what does it mean for America when the definition of marriage is no longer an entity "between one man and one woman." and the legalization of marijuana makes irrelevant myriad rebel anthems for misunderstood rock n’ rollers? Dare it be suggested that it probably means what it has always meant for this country? That we are capable of battling unjust policies of the day until new ones effectively make dinosaurs appear less obsolete? This is not to diminish the extensive, exhaustive, and relentless efforts that push these issues to the forefront of national attention, but rather to applaud a democracy in which change is possible. Socially liberal or not, isn’t that what we want?