Voters in North Carolina overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage in the Tar Heel state. Even President Obama and former President Bill Clinton's opposition to the measure could not convince enough people to vote against the amendment.
With most all of the precincts reporting, unofficial results showed the amendment passing with approximately 61 percent of voters favoring the amendment. Polls taken prior to the vote indicated it would pass with at least 58 percent.
"Now, the people have spoken," said Ron Baity, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in south Winston-Salem. He worked for years to get the amendment on the state ballot but wasn't successful until after Republicans won a majority in the General Assembly in 2010.
"They have spoken clearly," Baity told a crowd of about 70 at his church Tuesday, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. "They have spoken explicitly that marriage in North Carolina is between one man and one woman."
Thirty states now define marriage as between a man and a woman in their constitution. North Carolina is the last one in the South to ban same-sex marriage. Supporters of traditional marriage have won 32 of the last 32 votes on the issue of civil unions; an astounding 100 percent record.
Only six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage and all but Iowa are located in the more liberal Northeastern states.
The campaign in support of the amendment had some help from one of the state's most influential and religious families; the Grahams. The Rev. Billy Graham lent his support to the effort last week, as did his son and daughter, Franklin Graham and Anne Graham Lotz.
But opponents of the measure in part relied on statements opposing the measure from President Obama and former President Bill Clinton, who recorded a phone message encouraging voters to defeat the amendment.
"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.
However, Obama thus far has refused to publicly endorse same-sex marriage, saying only that his views on the issue are "evolving." The president also released a statement Tuesday saying he was "disappointed" in the vote.
Earlier this year, gay activists began waging strategies to defeat amendments in North Carolina and Minnesota and raising substantial funds was one of the major priorities. For example, Coalition to Protect North Carolina, the group organized to oppose the amendment, raised about $2.2 million compared to Vote For Marriage NC which raised half that amount by bringing in $1.1 million.
Joe Easterling, a Christian from Wake Forest, said he voted for the amendment because the intent of the bill lined up with what the Bible says about marriage.
"I know some people may argue that the Bible may not necessarily be applicable, or it should not be applicable, on such policy matters," he told WSOC-TV. "But even looking at nature itself, procreation is impossible without a man and a woman. And because of those things, I think it is important that the state of North Carolina's laws are compatible with the laws of nature but, more importantly, the laws of God."
But not everyone was excited about the amendment passing. Christine Regan, a local field organizer for Protect ALL NC Families, the main organization that worked against the amendment, was expecting a different outcome and was upset that voters did not see the issue from their group's perspective.
"The other side has no facts," Regan told the Winston-Salem Journal. "They have a Bible. A Bible and hate."
Passage of the amendment could make for an interesting Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., later this summer. Gay rights activists have been placing increasing pressure on top Democratic leaders to include support for same-sex marriage in the party's platform.