North Carolina voters are one step closer to deciding whether a ban on same-sex marriage should be added to their state constitution.
State house lawmakers voted 75-42 Monday evening to put the question on the May 2012 primary ballot. The bill has been sent to the state senate where it will face more debate.
North Carolina already bans gay marriage, but supporters of the proposed amendment say the extra step is needed to chisel it into their constitution.
"We're saying keep marriage the way God intended it to be. If the voters don't want it, they'll vote it down and we're prepared to live with that," local church pastor Patrick Wooden said.
"But I do believe that the people's voice in a democracy should be heard. We don't live our lives any differently than anyone else does. We go to work. We come home. We have children, great children," he said.
Opponents of the ban say that this will be the first time a state amendment actually restricts people's rights.
"We should be able to do what we want, we're in America we should be able to feel how we feel and they shouldn't be able to limit that to," said Chris Fitzsimon, the director of North Carolina Policy Watch. "I think this is a terribly sad day in our state and will have repercussions for a long time if this amendment passes."
Thirty states have already excluded gay marriage in their constitutions. North Carolina is the only southeastern state that does not have marriage defined in its constitution.