While Question 1, Maine's gay marriage issue, generated the most attention nationwide, gay issues and candidates were on tickets throughout the U.S.

Mainers narrowly rejected a gay marriage law approved by lawmakers in the spring.

On the other side of the nation, in Washington State, gay unions got a more favorable response. Early returns for Referendum 71 showed the measure leading by a narrow margin. If approved, the measure would extend a 2007 domestic partnership law for a second time, granting gay and lesbian couples all the remaining state-provided rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

The conservative group Protect Marriage collected 138,000 signatures in the spring to put the law up for a vote. They've argued that the law is unlawful because it violates a 1998 gay marriage ban approved by legislators and ruled constitutional by the state's Supreme Court. Handicapped by low enthusiasm to repeal the law – the group raised less than $60,000 – and low poll numbers, the group had a steep incline to overcome.

After the loss, many believe social conservatives will turn to the courts to undo the legislation.

Voters in Kalamazoo, Michigan fended off an attempt to repeal a controversial gay protections law approved by city leaders in June. Opponents called the anti-discrimination law an attack on religious groups, despite its exemption for churches. A large majority (61%, with 89% of precincts reporting) of voters disagreed.

New Jersey's gubernatorial race was as much a referendum on gay marriage as a question on who will govern the Garden State. With Governor Jon Corzine's defeat to Republican Chris Christie, gay marriage appears to be off the table.

Corzine promised the gay and lesbian community that if reelected he would shepherd a gay marriage bill through the Legislature, while Christie has vowed to oppose any such attempt.

Gay marriage foes in New York, however, were disappointed by the election of Democrat Bill Owens in the 23rd district. Owens is the first Democrat to win the seat since the Civil War. Owens is not a strong gay rights supporter but his Republican opponent, Dede Scozzafava, is. A position that proved unacceptable to gay marriage foes, who altered their allegiance to third-party candidate Doug Hoffman, a gay marriage opponent, and pushed out Scozzafava. Her surprise withdrawal three days before the election drew cheers from gay marriage foes who called it a victory. The celebration was short lived.

Annise Parker, the openly lesbian candidate for Houston mayor, will face Gene Locke in a runoff next month. Parker and Locke, a former city attorney, were the two top vote-getters out of a field of seven in Tuesday's mayoral election. Parker is running to lead the nation's fourth largest city.

Openly gay former news anchor Charles Pugh will lead Detroit City Council. As the top vote-getter in Tuesday's city council election, Pugh becomes council president. He is the first openly gay person to hold elected office in Detroit.

Voters in two Cleveland suburbs also endorsed openly gay candidates. Mark Tumeo won his bid to keep his Cleveland Heights City Council seat. And in Lakewood, openly lesbian Nickie J. Antonio also held onto her city council seat, Cleveland daily The Plain Dealer reported. Antonio was the top vote-getter on Tuesday, which might influence council members when they decide on a new president in January. Both cities are among the most progressive in the area.

Also in Ohio, openly lesbian Sandra Kurt won her freshman effort to become a member of the Akron City Council. She is the first openly gay person to be elected to the council.

And in New York City, gay representation on the city council doubled overnight with the election of four openly gay candidates. Queens voters endorsed two candidates, Daniel Dromm in district 25 and James Van Bramer in district 26. Manhattan reelected City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in district 3 and Rosie Mendez in district 2.

Eight gay candidates originally jumped into the contest but a September primary whittled the field down to four.