Voters in three states on Tuesday will have the final say on gay rights issues.

In Kalamazoo, Michigan the backlash to a gay protections ordinance was so strong lawmakers were forced to rescind the law and ultimately put it up for a vote. Voters in Maine are the first to be asked to uphold – or reject – a gay marriage law approved by lawmakers in the spring. And whether a gay-inclusive domestic partnership law gets rolled back in Washington State will be decided on Tuesday by voters.

Gay foes working in each state rallied to put the laws up for a vote. And while Maine's gay marriage law has drawn the most attention, all three contests are must-wins for a gay community crushed by big losses at the ballot box last year, including Proposition 8, California's gay marriage ban.

Gay marriage has yet to win a popular vote but advocates hope Mainers will buck the trend. Polls give a slight edge to proponents of gay marriage. But anxious advocates worry because they know voter demographics of an off-year election does not favor them. Winning will hinge on voter turnout, particularly the 18-to-25-year-olds who generally favor gay nuptials.

The Maine anti-gay marriage campaign has been heavily influenced by Proposition 8. Stand for Marriage Maine's largest donor is the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which has given $1.5 million. NOM also heavily backed Proposition 8.

NOM's involvement has turned Maine's debate on marriage into a California do-over. The campaign's TV ads recycle the argument that gay marriage is about teaching children about being gay. On November 2, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills rejected the group's claims.

“Whatever the benefits and burdens of the civil institution of marriage, the state's definition of marriage has no bearing on the curricula in our public schools, either under current law or under LD 1020 [the gay marriage law],” Mills wrote in her response to Education Commissioner Susan Gendron, who had requested the legal analysis.

Marc Mutty, chairman of Stand for Marriage Maine, called Mills' opinion “a shameless political ploy by supporters of homosexual marriage.” He went on to argue that the gay marriage law creates an “opportunity for teaching about same-sex relationships.” Mainers, however, might be more inclined to reject such an argument because four surrounding states – Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire – have legalized gay marriage. And two nearby states – New York and New Jersey – and the District of the Columbia are considering gay marriage bills, making for numerous opportunities to discuss gay unions regardless of what Mainers decide.

Washington State gay activists are working to hold on to a law approved by lawmakers that extends a 2007 domestic partnership law for a second time, granting gay and lesbian couples all the remaining state-provided rights, benefits and obligations of marriage.

Opponents of the “everything but marriage” law collected nearly 138,000 signatures to put the law up for a vote. They say the law is unacceptable because it violates a 1998 gay marriage ban approved by lawmakers and ruled constitutional by the state's Supreme Court.

Opponents, however, have a steep incline to overcome. Polling favors proponents of gay unions who have managed to outraise opponents. Protect Marriage, whose members favor repeal, have raised $60,000, a small fraction of the $780,000 given to proponents of the law.

If rejected, Referendum 71 would only peel back the latest expansion of the law.

Kalamazoo voters, on the other hand, are not considering gay unions but gay protections. Voters on Tuesday will decide whether to keep an ordinance that makes it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

The group Citizens Voting No to Special Rights Discrimination turned in more than 2,000 signatures to put the law up for a vote after commissioners approved the measure twice. The anti-gay Christian-based group American Family Association (AFA) supports the effort.

AFA recently grabbed national headlines when it purchased time on various television stations to air a controversial documentary special on the “radical homosexual agenda” titled Speechless: Silencing the Christians. Several broadcasters backed off from broadcasting the film after gay activists complained. In the film, the AFA asserts, among other things, that gay protections, such as those approved in Kalamazoo, force churches to hire gay men and lesbians against their beliefs. Kalamazoo's law, however, exempts churches.

For gay activists failure would be devastating coming on the heels of last year's election that saw approval of gay marriage bans in Arizona and California and a measure in Arkansas that effectively bans gay adoption by making it illegal for unwed couples to adopt in a state that bans gay marriage.