Gay Marriage Ban Will Be On May State Ballot

North Carolina voters will get to vote next May on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the state.

The Senate voted 30-16 Tuesday in favor of putting the question on the statewide primary ballot. The number of yes votes was just enough to approve the constitutional amendment. The House approved the measure Monday.

While 30 states already have similar prohibitions in their constitutions, North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without one.

State law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but amendment supporters argue traditional marriage would be better protected against potential legal challenges by same-sex couples in six other states.

Opponents say the question will diminish the state's business climate by perception that gays and lesbians aren't welcome.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The North Carolina House has agreed to let voters decide next May whether to add a provision to the state constitution to make clear marriage is between one man and one woman.

The House voted 75-42 on Monday in favor of a measure that would make marriage the only domestic legal union recognized in this state. An amendment needed to receive 72 votes. The proposal now goes to the Senate for consideration.

State law in North Carolina already defines marriage as between one man and one woman, but supporters argue the prohibition needs to be stronger to protect it against legal challenges from same-sex married couples licensed in a handful of states.

Opponents critical of the bill in the three-hour debate called the proposal discriminatory.

Social conservatives wanting for years for legislators to act on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in North Carolina are heading to Raleigh, urging them to vote this week.

Several groups that support the ban planned a rally Monday morning near the Legislative Building before lawmakers reconvened at midday. Legislative leaders say they're prepared to consider a bill setting up a statewide constitutional referendum for 2012.

Amendment opponents also planned candlelight vigils in several cities Monday night and a Raleigh rally on Tuesday. They say the amendment is unnecessary, a political ploy by Republicans and discriminates against gays and lesbians.

GOP legislators now in charge of the Legislature say it's time for citizens to decide on the issue after it was quashed during years of Democratic rule.