GREENVILLE, N.C. — Passage of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman makes North Carolina "look like Mississippi," Gov. Beverly Perdue said Friday.
Perdue was in Greenville as part of her tour to tout her proposed state budget for 2012-2013. The governor was responding to a question on the amendment from a reporter from WITN-TV in Washington.
"I think it's wrong for North Carolina, clearly and simply," she said. "People around the country are watching us and they're really confused, to have been such a progressive, forward-thinking, economically driven state that invested in education and that stood up for the civil rights of people, including the civil rights marches back in the '50s and '60s and '70s.
"Folks are saying, 'What in the world is going on in North Carolina?' We look like Mississippi."
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant took offense at Perdue's comment.
"I am certainly disappointed by Gov. Perdue's statement regarding North Carolina's 'looking like Mississippi,'" Bryant said in a statement. "Apparently, North Carolina's voters are much more in line with Mississippi's traditional values on marriage than those of Gov. Perdue."
The chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party also issued a statement, saying his state is proud to stand with those who voted for the amendment in North Carolina and people in other states who support traditional marriage.
"Gov. Perdue is obviously out of touch with the voters of her own state and is trying to change the subject by attacking Mississippi," Mississippi GOP chairman Joe Nosef said.
On Tuesday, North Carolina became the 30th state to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The amendment passed with nearly 61 percent of voters supporting it.
Outside of Mississippi, however, many people are blasting North Carolina for approving the amendment, and some critics are letting their dollars do the talking.
Tourism officials from the Outer Banks to Asheville confirmed Friday that visitors are contacting them to say they won't vacation in North Carolina because of the amendment. The Facebook page for the state tourism office has been deluged by thousands of comments about the amendment, the majority of which are negative.
House Majority Leader Paul Stam, who sponsored the legislation that led to the amendment, said that doesn't prove anything.
"That's anecdotal evidence. South Carolina has (a similar amendment). Virginia has virtually the same thing. That's just trivial," said Stam, R-Wake.
Before North Carolina's vote, it had been three years since a state had voted on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, and attitudes toward gay marriage are quickly evolving. Two new polls show more than half of Americans now support same-sex marriage.
"We warned from the beginning that this was bad for business, bad for the economy, bad for tourism," said Stuart Campbell, executive director of Equality North Carolina. "We've seen it in other states where, when they passed anti-gay legislation, they suffered economically."
Tourism officials say it's too soon to tell how much impact the national furor could have on North Carolina.
Commerce Department spokesman Tim Crowley said he suspects it will pass eventually.
"Obviously, it's still fresh in people's minds. We're going to concentrate on what we've always done – making visitors welcome in North Carolina," Crowley said.