Proponents of same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana gained ground in ballot initiatives across the United States during Tuesday's election.
The northeastern state of Maine and the mid-Atlantic state of Maryland became the first two states to approve gay marriage through a popular vote. Six U.S. states and Washington, D.C. allow gay marriage, but in those cases, legalization came through lawmakers or the courts.
With the final votes still being counted, Washington state was also expected to approve such a measure, while Minnesota voters were expected to reject a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
These were also the first popular votes on gay marriage issues since U.S. President Barack Obama announced his support for it earlier this year. They could have an influence on the U.S. Supreme Court, which could soon decide whether to consider cases challenging a federal law that denies recognition of same-sex marriage.
The states of Washington and Colorado approved legalizing the production, sale, and possession of marijuana for recreational use. Those approvals put the states at odds with the federal government, which still outlaws the drug.
A similar measure was defeated in Washington's neighboring state, Oregon. A number of U.S. states now allow marijuana use for medical reasons.
California voters struck down a measure that would have made the state the first in the nation to require special labels on genetically modified foods. They also rejected a measure that would have abolished the death penalty in that state.
Michigan voters rejected an initiative that would have banned the state legislature from making any laws that restrict collective bargaining. Collective bargaining has become a hot-button issue in recent years, as government officials and industry leaders seek to cut costs at the expense of unionized workers.
And Maryland approved a landmark immigration initiative known as the DREAM act, which will allow undocumented immigrants to receive in-state college tuition rates.
In total, U.S. voters were weighing more than 170 ballot initiatives across the 50 U.S. states. Ballot initiatives generally get on the ballot when enough voters sign petitions to put them there.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.