OLYMPIA, Wash. — Opponents of gay marriage have an unblemished track record in U.S. elections, chalking up 32 victories in 32 public votes.

They've won in blue states and red ones, among the most heavily religious areas and among the least-churched. North Carolina punctuated the winning streak just last month by comfortably approving a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions.

Gay marriage supporters are optimistic that they can end their losing ways this year, with four states voting on the issue in November. They're particularly encouraged by the prospects in Washington and Maine. Meanwhile opponents have taken steps to maintain their unflawed record and believe their side will be motivated to hold the status quo.

Here are five reasons why same-sex marriage proponents have a decent shot at success in 2012:

WASHINGTON: Officials certified a gay marriage referendum on Tuesday, meaning Washingtonians will decide the issue this fall. Voters upheld an "everything but marriage" law in a similar referendum vote three years ago, approving it by a 53-47 margin. That was the first time that a state's voters had agreed to extend relationship rights to same-sex couples. It expanded benefits including the right to use sick leave to care for a domestic partner, and rights related to adoption, child custody and child support. Lawmakers comfortably approved gay marriage earlier this year as political leaders such as Gov. Chris Gregoire talked about how their views on the issue had changed. However gay marriage opponents are not conceding anything yet. National groups have promised time and money to fight Washington's new same-sex marriage law via the referendum, including the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage, which was involved in ballot measures that overturned same-sex marriage in California and Maine.

REPUBLICANS: Six Republican lawmakers in Washington voted in favor of the gay marriage legislation, and a leading GOP candidate for attorney general also declared his support. Republican Rep. Maureen Walsh, who represents conservative territory in eastern Washington anchored by Walla Walla, said she believes opinions on the issue are changing even there. "My district is far more receptive to it than they've ever been in the past," she said.

POLLS: A recent poll conducted by consulting firm Strategies 360 found that 54 percent of likely Washington voters think it should be legal for same-sex couples to get married, though the survey didn't specifically ask them how they'll vote on Referendum 74. Public support nationally has also been increasing steadily, though both sides of the gay marriage issue have indicated caution with opinion polls on this issue, noting that some may say one thing in surveys but vote another way on an emotionally charged issue. And same-sex marriage opponents point to their many victories at the ballot box in previous elections.

MAINE: Maine voters rejected gay marriage three years ago by a 53-47 margin, and activists have been working over the past two years to change voter opinions. They believe there are positive trends, especially since several of the states that have legal same-sex marriage are New England neighbors – New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut. The Legislature in New Hampshire, now controlled by Republicans, considered repealing that state's gay marriage law this year but ultimately rejected that effort.

OBAMA: President Barack Obama's recent declaration of support for gay marriage was celebrated as a key endorsement among gay rights groups. He remains comparatively popular in Washington, with 53 percent approving of his work and 43 percent disapproving, according to the Strategies 360 poll. Obama's image and statement has been prominently displayed on the website of those trying to sustain the gay marriage law. David Farmer, who is leading efforts to legalize gay marriage in Maine, said Obama's statement galvanized supporters and also echoed the views of people on the fence. "The way he talked about his evolution is very similar to what we see people talking about when we go to door-to-door," Farmer said. But foes of gay marriage in Washington think the president's support could backfire. Joseph Backholm, with Preserve Marriage Washington, has said Obama's endorsement "will galvanize and energize our folks."

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Associated Press writer Mike Baker can be reached on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/HiPpEV

Here are some reactions to Obama's announcement in favor of gay marriage.
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  • Mitt Romney

    "I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman," Mitt Romney said.

  • Kyrsten Sinema

  • Daniel O'Donnell

  • Kirsten Gillibrand

  • Jeff Merkley

  • Elizabeth Warren

  • Michael Bloomberg

    "This is a major turning point in the history of American civil rights," said New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. "No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people - and I have no doubt that this will be no exception. The march of freedom that has sustained our country since the Revolution of 1776 continues, and no matter what setbacks may occur in a given state, freedom will triumph over fear and equality will prevail over exclusion. Today's announcement is a testament to the President's convictions, and it builds on the courageous stands that so many Americans have taken over the years on behalf of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans, stretching back to the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village."

  • Jerrold Nadler

    "I applaud President Obama for announcing his support for marriage equality today," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) "For the first time in this nation's history, a sitting president has shown the courage and leadership to stand up for all American families by pledging to support the fundamental right of every person to marry the person they love, and to have that marriage fully respected. I commend President Obama for this brave and honest step. Those who seek to politicize civil rights for personal or political gain will certainly attack him, but the course toward marriage equality and justice is the correct and inevitable path."

  • Brad Lander

  • Fred Karger

    "I'm thrilled!" longshot GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger told HuffPost, referring to Obama's embrace of marriage equality. Karger is the first openly gay Republican or Democrat to run for president. "The Karger pressure has worked," he joked. "Particularly after the defeat in North Carolina, we welcome him to the full equality position."

  • Vince Gray

  • Martin O'Malley

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

  • Barack Obama

  • Mark Udall

  • Senator Chris Coons

  • Rep.George Miller

  • Jim Himes

  • Nancy Pelosi

  • Nita Lowey

    "I have been blessed to have a long and happy marriage. I strongly believe all Americans deserve that same opportunity," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)

  • Antonio Villaraigosa

  • Jackie Speier

  • Michael Steele

  • Dennis Kucinich

  • John Brunner

  • Cory Booker

  • Chris Gregoire

  • Fred Karger

  • Ted Strickland

  • Jared Polis

  • Reince Priebus

    "While President Obama has played politics on this issue, the Republican Party and our presumptive nominee Mitt Romney have been clear. We support maintaining marriage between one man and one woman and would oppose any attempts to change that," said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz

  • Chellie Pingree

  • Christine C. Quinn

  • Mike Huckabee

    "Barack Obama just announced he supports same-sex marriage," Mike Huckabee wrote in a fundraising appeal to supporters. "Nancy Pelosi immediately jumped on the announcement and emailed Democrat activists nationwide promising to continue their fight. This is going to be a defining issue this election. Obama, Pelosi and the Democrats have been a complete failure on economic issues so now they are going to focus on issues that will rile up their base. Well, Mr. President it's going to rile up our folks also. Men and women who support traditional marriage."

  • Rep. Bill Taylor

  • Deval Patrick

  • Frank Lautenberg

    "President Obama's support for marriage equality marks an important moment for civil rights in America," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), who co-sponsored legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). "We simply can not treat same sex couples as second-class citizens in our country. Marriage equality is one of the most significant civil rights battles of our time and is critical to guaranteeing the equal protection under the law promised to every American in the Constitution. The President's support for marriage equality should inspire Congress, Governors and state legislatures to advance civil rights for all Americans."

  • Allen West

  • Ann McLane Kuster

  • Sen. Patrick Leahy

  • Peter Welch

    "This is an historic moment and I applaud the President for his decision and courage," Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said. "One of the greatest and most liberating human emotions is acceptance. And what the President did today was accept that the quality of love two people share is more important than their gender. The President's decision required him look within and engage his heart. It is truly wonderful and welcome news."

  • Senator Patty Murray

  • Steve Rothman

    "As an early and strong proponent of Marriage Equality, I am very happy that President Obama has made this announcement," said Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) "Marriage Equality is a matter of basic human rights and all of America's same-sex families are now closer to having their unions recognized by our government. This is an important step in our country's march toward achieving true justice and equality for all."

  • Chuck Schumer

  • JackieForNH

  • Howard Dean

    "President Obama's public support for marriage equality is an historic affirmation of the fundamental American value of equal rights for all," said Howard Dean. "Having signed the nation's first law allowing Civil Unions as Governor of Vermont, I'm also proud to see our president affirm the belief that I and so many other Americans hold: loving and committed couples should have the same benefits that are extended through marriage. Marriage equality is a right and a benefit to all families."

  • Mike Quigley

  • Senator Ben Cardin

  • Sen. Barbara Boxer

  • Senator Dick Durbin