Referendum 74, Question 6, Question 1—these are the legislative code names for gay marriage on three state ballots across the country, and tonight could be the very first time in American history that a state passes gay marriage by a popular vote. Here's what you need to know.  

Wait, what? There's more to this vote than Romney and Obama? 

Yes! There's really important stuff, like if those Republicans who said all those dumb things about rape are going to win. Puerto Rico voting for statehood. Or if people really like Michele Bachmann. And gay marria—

Hold on. I know gay people who are getting married already. 

Did you go to their weddings? They're pretty awesome, and the New York Times likes them a lot ... maybe too much. But seriously, there are only six states (plus the District of Columbia) where same-sex couples have the freedom to marry.

Only six? I thought it was more. 

Nope, just Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. There's also the long-standing Prop. 8 legal battle in California which looks like it's going to the Supreme Court. And there's this, by the Freedom to Marry organization, that outlines the civil unions and states which honor out-of-state same-sex marriages, and how they differ:

MDNM, and RI explicitly respect out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples, while nine states now offer broad protections short of marriage. DEHIILNJ, and RI allow civil union, while CAORNV, and WA offer broad domestic partnership. Four other states (COMEMDWI) have more limited domestic partnership.

This year legislatures in Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington passed bills giving same-sex couples the right to marry. Chris Christie struck that New Jersey initiative down with a veto, but the bills that weren't vetoed by Christie are up for a vote in Maryland and Washington. And there's a gay marriage measure in Maine, too.

All the other times same-sex marriage has been put to a vote (32 times), people have struck it down. 

What's the chance of these measures passing? 

Let's break it down:

Maine Looks Good

According to Public Policy Polling (which is sometimes criticized for being left) the measure for same-sex marriage, called Question 1, or Yes on 1 if you're a supporter of marriage equality, is leading 52-45. According to the Maine People's Resource Center's most recent survey, 50.5 percent are voting yes, with 46.5 percent voting no. The big caveat here, as NECN.com's Amy Sinclair points out, is that gay marriage polling is notoriously inaccurate. "In 2009, all the polls showed gay marriage ahead, but when the votes were counted, it lost by six percentage points," she writes. 

Polls Close: Maine's polls close at 8:00 p.m. 

If it passes, when's the earliest you can marry someone of the same-sex? December 7, 2012 (30 days after the vote)

Washington State Looks Solid, Too

PPP on November 3 had the battle for Washington state's same-sex marriage at 52-42, with those supporting it winning. But according to the Elway poll, an independent polling firm, Referendum 74 (that's what it's being called) leads 49-45. That's closer than it has been all year. It seems opponents of same-sex marriage may be catching up in the state in the past month or so despite being outspent, according to a report from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Late surges by those opposing same-sex marriage are actually a trend reflective of the way certain states have voted in the past: "Foes scored come-from-behind victories in 2008 with California’s Proposition 8—now under challenge in the federal courts—and when Maine narrowly rejected marriage equality in 2009," reads the Seattle PI's report.

Polls Close: Washington is a vote-by-mail state, which means there are no polls. For ballots to be counted, they have the be post-marked by November 6. "That means ballots will continue to arrive and be processed well after Election Day. In close elections, it is common to not know the outcome for as much as a week after the election," explains Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner.

If it passes, when's the earliest you can marry someone of the same sex? December 6, 2012, but that all depends on the margin, the tallies, and the votes that are coming in. It's not looking like we'll know the outcome of Referendum 74 tonight. 

Maryland Looks Great—Depending on Who You Ask

"A month ago, the same-sex marriage question was ahead by 10 percentage points—49 percent to 39 percent—in an earlier Sun poll. The contest is now a dead heat in part because some African-Americans who supported the measure or were undecided are now saying no," write Anne Linksey and Michael Dresser of the Baltimore Sun. That report was on October 27. On October 29, a poll released from Goucher College found overwhelming support for gay marriage in the state, with 55 percent supporting and 39 percent opposing the measure. 

Polls Close: Polling closes at 8 p.m. in Maryland.

If it passes when's the earliest you can marry someone of the same-sex? January 1, 2013. 

So it could be three states, or no states, or just one or two states that pass gay marriage by a popular vote?

Yup. Not to blow your mind, but there is one more gay marriage measure on the ballots tonight. But it's not like those other three. 

Eh? 

It's in Minnesota, and it's actually an amendment to ban gay marriage. Gay marriage/marriage equality advocates there would want to vote no on the amendment since it's calling for a ban on gay marriage. Recent polling by PPP has 52 percent of voters opposing the amendment, while Geidner points out that it's a dead heat according to a SurveyUSA poll. The gay blog Towleroad points out:

NOTE: All abstaining votes on the constitutional amendment will count as “no” votes. For instance, if a voter casts their vote in the Presidential election but does not vote either way on the marriage amendment, their vote will count as a no. For a constitutional amendment to pass in Minnesota, it must receive more than 50% of all ballots cast in the election.

Even if the amendment fails, gay people still wouldn't be allowed to marry each other in the state. 

Polls close: Minnesota's polls close at 9 p.m. EST. 

So what now?

Go out and vote! It's a lot better than complaining on Twitter and gets a lot more done. If you aren't in the states voting on these issues, vote anyway, and you can still watch to see what happens right along with us. Seriously! It's like a date, but better. You don't even have to buy us dinner.