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N.C. gay marriage ban approved

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A gay couple hold hands before getting married in Central Park on July 30, 2011 in New York City. A recent poll showed that half of Americans support same-sex marriage. UPI /Monika Graff | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/b99a0e8a057deb88e2e60502910fbfca/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A gay couple hold hands before getting married in Central Park on July 30, 2011 in New York City. A recent poll showed that half of Americans support same-sex marriage. UPI /Monika Graff | License Photo

RALEIGH, N.C., May 8 (UPI) -- North Carolinians turned out in force Tuesday to make heterosexual marriage-only a part of the fabric of their state Constitution, referendum results showed.

With 29 percent of the state's counties reporting, the measure to insert the ban on same-sex marriage in the state Constitution was passing 61.33 percent to 38.67 percent against. The Charlotte Observer said that trend would carry the amendment to passage.

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Election officials said the turnout was the largest for a primary election in decades, the newspaper said.

"This was an issue of standing on the principle of God's word that marriage is between one man and one woman, and I believe that message has gotten across," the Rev. Mark Harris, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte who helped lead the campaign for passage, said.

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The Rev. Robin Tanner, the pastor of Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church in Charlotte, who was on the losing side, indicated in a statement he had hope of a reversal down the road.

"Hope lives on in this place we all call home," he said. "Hope is our promised companion, and equality for all our promised land."

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The amendment, known as Amendment 1, stipulates "marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."

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The amendment, which takes effect Jan. 1, not only bans recognition of same-sex marriage, but also civil unions and domestic partnerships of any kind.

"The people of the state recognize the importance of protecting marriage between a man and a woman," Tami Fitzgerald, another pro-amendment leader told Fox News Channel prior to the polls closing.

"We didn't want civil union to be a marriage clone," Republican state Sen. Dan Soucek, one of the amendment's primary sponsors, told Fox.

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"We wanted that institution to be protected, not just the word."

About 12 percent of North Carolina domestic partnerships are between same-sex couples, 2010 U.S. Census data indicate.

Evangelist Billy Graham last week urged voters to support Amendment 1.

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"At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage," Graham, a North Carolinian, said in a rare statement. "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," his statement said.

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The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families, which opposed Amendment 1, raised $2.2 million. Vote For Marriage NC, which supported the marriage-defining amendment, raised $1.1 million.

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A poll conducted by Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank, had projected the measure would win by 16 percentage points.

A poll by Public Policy Polling, which often conducts polls for Democratic clients, had indicated the measure would win by 14 points.

North Carolina law already bans same-sex marriage, but the state had not changed its Constitution to ban it.

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Ten other Southern states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage and, in some cases, on civil unions as well.

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