(Photo: AP Images / Nell Redmond)
Renowned evangelist Billy Graham issued a statement voicing his support for an amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, just under a week before North Carolina citizens will vote on the issue. Notably, Graham's endorsement is rare given that he typically avoids political issues.
"At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage," Graham said in his statement on Wednesday. "The Bible is clear – God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8. God bless you as you vote."
The elder Graham is not the only one in this powerful family to lend their support to the state's marriage amendment. In April, Anne Graham Lotz and her brother Franklin Graham also publicly endorsed a "yes" vote for the measure.
Supporters of the measure called the elder Graham's backing "significant."
"Reverend Graham understands that we as North Carolinians have a duty to preserve God's first institution – marriage," said Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of Vote FOR Marriage NC, in her statement. "We cannot be silent as activists work to radically redefine marriage – an institution that has been fundamental to our civilization for thousands of years."
Some were surprised by Graham's public statement, saying he has historically avoided commenting on political hot-button issues. However, Southeastern Baptist Seminary President Danny Akin told Politico that he's not surprised to hear Graham comment on this issue.
"I think he would see this as I do, not so much as a political issue – which it is – but a moral issue," said Akin. "He believes it's right to affirm that marriage should be understood as a covenant between a man and a woman."
On the other hand, President Obama and other Democrat and liberal leaders claim the measure is discriminatory and would be unfair to homosexuals who want to marry.
"While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples," Obama's North Carolina spokesperson, Cameron French, said in mid-March.
A Public Policy Polling survey released on Tuesday revealed that likely voters will support the measure 55-41 percent, or by a hefty margin of 14 percent.
Over 211,000 votes have been cast early and the issue is expected to generate a high turnout among voters.