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N.C. voters to decide on gay marriage amendment in May

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Voters in North Carolina will decide next year whether to adopt a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but the vote will be in May, not November.

If the vote had been in November, the lure of such an important issue for social conservatives might have played a role in determining whether President Obama or his Republican opponent carried the Southern swing state in the general election.

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The bill putting the gay-marriage amendment before voters passed the state House of Representatives on Monday, and passed the Senate on Tuesday, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

Supporters of the bill in the House decided to put the measure on the May ballot -- rather than on a November ballot as previously discussed -- because some House Democrats were worried that it might be used to boost conservative turnout in the presidential general election, the paper said.

Ten Democrats ended up voting for the bill in the House, where it needed a three-fifths majority to pass.

Obama narrowly won North Carolina in 2008, and polls show that he will have a tough fight against a Republican challenger there in 2012.

While the president may have dodged a bullet, now supporters of gay rights have a problem: The amendment vote is on primary day, which will see heavy Republican turnout -- and may give the measure an even better chance of passage.

State law already forbids same-sex marriage, but the ban is not enshrined in the North Carolina Constitution.

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--Richard Fausset

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