A constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman won Tuesday night in voting in North Carolina.
There were 1,303,952 votes for the amendment and 831,788 against the amendment with 100 of 100 counties reporting.
"With God's grace, we have won at overwhelming victory," said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition.
"We are not anti-gay - we are pro-marriage," she said. "The whole point is you don't re-write the nature of God's design for marriage based on the demands of a group of adults."
According to the North Carolina Board of Elections, only seven counties - including Wake, Orange, Durham, Chatham and Mecklenburg - voted against the amendment.
The debate has been an emotional one for North Carolina, and as the votes poured in Tuesday night dozens of people went to the NBC-17 Facebook page to express relief - or frustration.
"People need to understand the concept of what God wants marriage to be. It is a covenant between a man and a woman before God," Patrick L. Seymour Jr. wrote.
But Tina Kingston wrote, "Separation of church and state apparently no long exists. You should be free to marry whomever you choose to."
Still, the passage of the amendment has little immediate effect. Gay marriage is already banned by law in North Carolina.
But the amendment brought out passionate supporters from both sides.
Catholic Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, in a statement, expressed his "sincere gratitude" to those who voted for the amendment.
"Passage of the amendment to the Constitution of our state has now ensured that the definition of marriage, as the faithful and exclusive union of one man and one woman, and one which is open to the gift of children, is in accord with God's design and in keeping with the very nature of this sacred vocation," he said.
The North Carolina vote drew national attention.
In the final days before the vote, members of President Barack Obama's cabinet expressed support for gay marriage and former President Bill Clinton recorded phone messages urging voters to reject the amendment. Opponents also held marches, put up television ads and gave speeches, including one by Jay Bakker, son of late televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
Meanwhile, supporters ran their own ad campaigns and church leaders urged Sunday congregations to vote for the amendment. The Rev. Billy Graham, who at age 93 remains influential even though his last crusade was in 2005, was featured in full-page newspaper ads supporting the amendment.
Both sides spent a combined $3 million on their campaigns.
North Carolina law already bans gay marriage, like nine other states, but an amendment would effectively slam the door shut on same-sex marriages.
Six states — all in the Northeast except Iowa— and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages.
The North Carolina amendment was placed on the ballot after Republicans took over control of the state legislature after the 2010 elections, a role the GOP hadn't enjoyed for 140 years.
Joe Easterling, who described himself as a devout Christian, voted for the amendment at a polling place in WakeForest.
"I know that some people may argue that the Bible may not necessarily be applicable, or it should not be applicable, on such policy matters," he said. "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 ofNorth Carolina's laws are compatible with the laws of nature but, more importantly, with the laws of God."
Linda Toanone, who voted against the amendment, said people are born gay and it is not their choice.
"We think everybody should have the same rights as everyone else. If you're gay, lesbian, straight — whatever," she said.
North Carolina is the latest presidential swing state to weigh in on gay marriage. Florida, Virginia and Ohio all have constitutional amendments against gay marriage, and Obama's election-year vagueness on gay marriage has come under fresh scrutiny.
Obama, who supports most gay rights, has stopped short of backing gay marriage. Without clarification, he's said for the past year and a half that his personal views on the matter are "evolving."
Education Secretary Arne Duncan broke ranks with the White House on Monday, stating his unequivocal support for same-sex marriage one day after Vice President Joe Biden said he is "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex married couples getting the same rights at heterosexual married couples.
The amendment also goes beyond state law by voiding other types of domestic unions from carrying legal status, which opponents warn could disrupt protection orders for unmarried couples.
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