By a vote along party lines, the Wake County Board of Commissioners voted in favor of endorsing a constitutional amendment that only marriages between a man and woman would be legally recognized by the state.
Republicans Paul Coble, Phil Matthews, Joe Bryan and Tony Gurley voted in favor of the endorsement, while Democrats James West, Erv Portman and Betty Lou Ward voted against it.
The resolution was put on the agenda by Coble, Commission chair and Republican candidate for the 13th district congressional seat now held by Democrat Brad Miller.
Coble’s resolution also encouraged voters to express their opinion on the amendment, which will be on the May 8 ballot, but opponents of the amendment said the resolution encouraged residents to vote for it.
While North Carolina already has a law on the books banning gay marriage, the referendum would make it part of the state’s constitution.
The vote came after more than 20 people encouraged commission members to vote against Coble’s resolution during an hour-long public comment period.
“My marriage doesn’t need defense,” said John Burns. “I’m offended that people think I have the right to vote on whether people should get married.”
Mathew Mirarchi, a 27-year-old anthropologist, told commissioners that he has a master degree, pays his taxes and pumps thousands of dollars into the economy.
“All of those qualities and contributions are nullified when I tell you that I’m a proud gay man,” he said, asking the commission to allow him to share the same rights they have.
Speakers said that if commissioners supported the amendment it would drive business and new residents away from Wake County and would also send a message that the county’s gay residents are second-class citizens.
The only audience member that spoke in support of the resolution was Tami Fitzgerald from Vote for Marriage NC, a group that is campaigning in support of the amendment.
Fitzgerald said that the amendment would not harm economic growth, effect health insurance coverage or unmarried straight couples like opponents of the amendment claim.
She went on to say that without a marriage amendment, the definition of marriage can be changed at any time and that the current definition — marriage between a man and a woman — needs protecting.
The City of Raleigh approved a resolution in December that showed its opposition to the amendment.