Barack Obama has been re-elected as the president of our great nation. Democrats are smiling, Republicans are mourning Mitt Romney’s loss and everyone has been quite vocal about their opinion. Putting the presidential race aside, however, this election will be remembered for much more than just that decision.

Maryland, Maine and Washington became the first states to legalize gay marriage by way of popular vote on Tuesday, joining six other states and the District of Columbia. Despite the fact that the same proposition was voted down in Minnesota, Americans will remember this election as a turning point in this ongoing battle for equal rights. With almost one-fifth of states having legalized same-sex marriage, we will see more and more states catching on in the coming years.

America is the land of opportunity and it is important that the opportunity of legal marriage is offered to all of its citizens. While a vast majority of states are still opposed, we are definitely headed in the right direction with the latest election.

Another issue that gained a great deal of exposure during the election is the legalization of recreational marijuana use. While medicinal marijuana use had been made legal in 17 states along with the District of Columbia prior to the 2012 election, recreational marijuana use had never been legal. This changed Tuesday when Colorado and Washington both passed bills legalizing the recreational use of the popular drug, while Massachusetts became the 18th state to legalize its medicinal use.

It remains to be seen how much impact these state laws will have (due to the fact that it is still federally illegal), this is huge nonetheless. As is the case with most political issues, all it takes is one state to cause a domino effect and it will be more likely that other states will adapt a similar bill within the next few years. If a substantial amount of states are able to pass a similar bill, the federal government will have to accept what the people have decided.

It is important for us to consider how this election will influence the progress and changes to major issues. We will look back on Tuesday and remember it not only as the day that Obama was re-elected but also as one that set the tone for the federal legalization of gay marriage and a changed marijuana use policy. And while these issues bear little similarity to one another, they will now share a link in American history.

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