Marriage amendment supporters rally in Wilson
More than 50 pastors and church groups rallied in Wilson Wednesday in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage between a man and a woman as the only legally recognized domestic union in North Carolina.
The issue goes to voters on May 8.
"If we do not pass this amendment in North Carolina, schools will be teaching from the gay agenda to your children and mine in the public schools," said Rev. Donnie Price, pastor of Rosebud Baptist Church in Wilson. "Our public school systems would have no choice but to teach a pro-homosexual agenda, and that would be very detrimental to the families of North Carolina."
Price and others in the group say the Bible defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, and that's why they support adding that same definition to the state constitution.
Same-sex marriage is already against the law in the state, but supporters say the amendment would prevent an activist judge from changing the marriage definition.
Opponents argue that the amendment would have consequences beyond just keeping gay marriage illegal. They say it would also strip hospital visitation and health care rights of all unmarried couples.
Mary Gray says she goes to church but opposes the amendment.
"(My position) is more of a rights stance and that the love of God should not be limited to certain groups," she said. "This will exclude a lot of people, not just gay couples. It affects heterosexual couples, unmarried people, single parents with children. The ramifications just reach a long way."
"God loves everybody, and we shouldn't exclude anybody from rights," she added.
A.J. Verricchia, of Nash County, disagrees.
"It has nothing to do with love. It has to do with what the Bible teaches is moral, and that's it," he said. "There's nothing the government can tell me or nothing anybody else can tell me that would change my mind."
The public's attitude toward the proposed marriage amendment vary, according to recent polls.
An Elon University poll released Monday found six out of 10 people oppose the amendment, while 31 percent support it.
The poll, however, looks at the general population and doesn't screen for likely voters.
Among likely voters, according to a WRAL News poll two weeks ago, the amendment has broad support.
SurveyUSA found that 58 percent support the referendum, while 36 percent oppose it. Six percent remain undecided.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without such restrictions written into its constitution.
The marriage amendment has split the state in recent months, and has drawn national attention with President Barack Obama and the Catholic church weighing in. Obama spoke out last month against the amendment, and North Carolina's two Catholic bishops responded by calling the president's position a "disappointment."
Gov. Bev Perdue has said repeatedly that she believes marriage is between a man and woman but that she cannot support the amendment.
"I cannot look an unemployed man or woman in the eye and tell them that this amendment is more important than finding them a job," Perdue said.
Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis told WRAL News last week that he believes the amendment will pass, but he expects it to be overturned within 20 years because young people are more supportive of marriage rights for same-sex couples.