By Eden Stiffman and Lynn Bonner, The (Raleigh) News & Observer
Supporters of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage came to Raleigh on Tuesday with new confidence that the Republican-controlled legislature, eager to take on social issues, will back their cause.
About 3,500 people, including pastors and evangelists, assembled behind the state legislature to show their support for the gay-marriage ban. As a group of girls played patriotic music on their violins, rally-goers waved American flags of all sizes, tea party activists assembled their folding chairs, and young couples stood with Bibles in hand.
Clergy who support gay rights held a smaller news conference.
Sen. James Forrester, a Gaston County Republican and the sponsor of the bill, has repeatedly pushed the initiative over the past eight years. But now, with Republicans in control of the legislature for the first time in more than a century, the amendment has a better chance of getting on the ballot.
The proposed amendment needs a three-fifths vote in the House and the Senate in order to appear on the 2012 ballot. Currently, the count is close in both chambers. The bill would need 30 Senate votes, and has 23 sponsors. In the House, where 72 votes are needed, a constitutional amendment bill has 66 sponsors.
More than a dozen legislators who support the amendment attended the rally. Sen. Dan Soucek, a Republican from Boone and a bill sponsor, said that although "the opposition is ferocious," he is determined to write "correct moral standards" into the North Carolina constitution.
"We've been fighting for this for a long time," said Rep. Mitch Gillespie, a Republican representing Burke and McDowell counties, now in his seventh term. "I fully expect it to pass this year and I expect a large bipartisan vote on it."
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