Supporters and opponents of a state constitutional amendment defining marriage rallied in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday.
Around 3,500 Christian conservatives gathered outside the state's general assembly to support the amendment, as several gay rights activists protested inside the building.
The bill has been pushed repeatedly over the past eight years. But with Republicans in control of the legislature for the first time in more than a century, the measure has a better chance of getting on the ballot.
"It's not a right that they have. God designed marriage between one man, and one woman. That's it," said Diane Bridgeman, a supporter of traditional marriage.
North Carolina is the only southeastern state that has not approved an amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. State law already identifies only heterosexual unions as valid.
Supporters contend an amendment would better protect traditional marriage from court challenges by same-sex couples married legally in five states and the District of Columbia.
Thirty states have voted to allow that restriction in their state constitutions.