The national debate over same-sex marriage turns its attention South on Tuesday, as North Carolina could be on the verge of becoming the next state to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
In the final days before the vote, members of President Barack Obama's cabinet expressed support for same-sex marriage and former President Bill Clinton recorded phone messages urging voters to oppose the amendment.
Supporters of the amendment responded with marches, television ads and speeches. The Rev. Billy Graham was featured in full-page newspaper ads backing the amendment.
Experts expect the measure to pass, despite the state's long history of moderate politics.
The fate of the amendment hinges on who shows up to vote. More than 500,000 voters had cast their ballot before Tuesday, more than the 2008 primary when Obama and Hillary Clinton were fighting for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Obama's North Carolina campaign spokesman issued a statement in March saying the president opposed the amendment. Obama, who supports most gay and lesbian rights, has stopped short of backing same-sex marriage. Without clarification, he's said for the past year and a half that his personal views on the matter are "evolving."
Those who oppose changing the traditional definition of marriage to include gays and lesbians said the amendment is the only chance average people have to weigh in.
"In other states, judges have redefined marriage, without a vote of the people. That's happened in California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts," said Tami Fitzgerald, who heads the pro-amendment group Vote FOR Marriage NC. "The origin of marriage is from God, and I think most people in our state know that."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
For more on the current political scene in North Carolina, read Jamie Dean's article, Carolina Blues, featured in WORLD's May 19, 2012 issue.