07/11/2012 06:38 GMT | Updated 07/11/2012 16:58 GMT

US Election 2012: America Now Gayer, More Female And Slightly Stoned

America awoke on Wednesday morning to find it still had a Democratic president, but also that it was more female, a bit gayer and slightly more stoned than it had been when it went to bed.

Barack Obama largely owes his re-election to the 18-point gap he opened up over Mitt Romney among women voters. And it was a good night for female representation in the nation's corridors of power as well.

The 113th Congress which will take office following last night's election will have at least 19 female senators, the most ever.

Joining the Senate will be Republican Deb Fischer (Nebraska) and Democrats Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts).

And all six Democratic women up for re-election won their races including Claire McCaskill (Mo.) who defeated Todd Aikin, her Republican challenger who gained international infamy after claiming there was such a thing as "legitimate rape".

In New Hampshire every senator and member of the House being sent to Washington DC is now a woman, as is the the state's new governor.

The election also marked a significant step forward for gay rights in the United States. Exit polls predicted voters in Maine and Maryland had chosen to legalise gay marriage, and similar measures were on the ballot in Minnesota and Washington.

Six states have previously legalised gay marriage, however they have done so by votes of state legislators or through the courts. In the past 32 states have held votes on legalising gay marriage, but each time the move has been rejected by voters.

Voters in Wisconsin, the home state of Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, also chose to elect the first ever openly gay senator. Tammy Baldwin was among one of four openly gay members of the House of Representatives before she won election to the senate.

"I am well aware that I will have the honor to be Wisconsin's first woman US senator," she said. "And I am well aware I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate."

"But I didn't run to make history," she added. "I ran to make a difference."

In other results that could be taken as a sign of liberalising attitudes of the American public, both Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. Medical marijuana was also legalised in Massachusetts - Mitt Romney's home state.

President Obama also saw record levels of Latino support, around 70% nationwide, help send him back to the White House. He acknowledged the coalition he had built in his Chicago victory speech.

"I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love," he said.

"It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you're willing to try."