RALEIGH, N.C. (BP) -- North Carolina Tuesday became the 30th state to define marriage within its constitution as between a man and a woman when a proposal that had drawn nationwide attention passed easily.
With 54 percent of the vote reported, the amendment led by a margin of 60-40 percent, according to WCNC. The Associated Press called the race just after 9 p.m. Eastern.
Critics said the amendment was unnecessary because the state already defines marriage in the traditional sense, but supporters countered that North Carolina needed such an amendment to prevent a state court from legalizing gay "marriage," as has happened in Massachusetts, Iowa and Connecticut.
The final pre-election poll from left-leaning Public Policy Polling had the amendment up among likely voters, 57-39 percent. Historically, marriage amendments have outperformed surveys.
North Carolina was the last remaining state in the Southeast to pass such an amendment. While the amendments have been popular in conservative-leaning states, they've also passed in such left-leaning states as Michigan, Wisconsin and Oregon. Minnesota, another "blue" state, will vote on one in November.
Some critics also criticized the amendment for prohibiting not only gay "marriage" but also New Jersey-style civil unions, which grant same-sex couples all the state legal benefits of marriage, minus the name. Supporters, though, said civil unions were simply a stepping stone to gay "marriage" legalization, and they noted that three states -- Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut -- had legalized civil unions only to follow by changing the marriage law, too.
The heart of North Carolina's amendment reads, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State." Opponents tried to change the subject from marriage in the closing weeks of the campaign, charging that the "domestic legal union" language could endanger women by impacting the state's domestic violence statutes. Although some legal scholars shared that opinion, others disagreed, pointing out that other states have similar language in their constitutions and have had no problems. For instance, Idaho's amendment is identical.
The healthy margin by which the amendment passed has been the norm at the state level. Prior to Tuesday's vote, voters had passed pro-traditional marriage proposals by an average margin of 67-33 percent. That figure includes the 29 states that had voted on marriage amendments and two other states (Hawaii and Maine) that had voted on the issue.
Some national polls have showed majority support for gay "marriage." But many conservatives leaders, and some pollsters, have questioned such polls, theorizing that people may feel pressured to give the politically correct answer. After watching the North Carolina results Tuesday night, Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling send out a Tweet, saying, "Hate to say it but I don't believe polls showing majority support for gay marriage nationally. Any time there's a vote it doesn't back it up." Although Public Policy Polling's surveys on the issue have been dependable, the organization leans left.
J.D. Greear, the lead pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., a Southern Baptist congregation, urged the church's members to support the amendment.
"Government did not define or establishment marriage," Greear said in a video recorded for members. "God did. Government merely recognized that which has been established by the Creator."
Redefining marriage would have "devastating consequences," Greear said, adding that it would "affect how we perceive God's image, how we understand God-like love, how kids understand their own gender identity."
Greear added, "Nobody's arguing that homosexuals are lesser people or they ought to be ostracized in our society or that they ought not to enjoy the same freedoms or protections that the rest of us enjoy. The point is simply that you don't rewrite the nature of God's design based on contemporary cultural mores."
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.
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