GOP-led NC Legislature nearing gay marriage vote

By GARY D. ROBERTSON | September 11, 2011 | 4:45 PM EDT

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The gay marriage debate has arrived in North Carolina, after years when Democrats who once controlled the Legislature managed to push it aside.

Now Republicans are in charge of the General Assembly after a 140-year absence. They've scheduled a legislative session Monday to consider proposed constitutional amendments, including those that would let voters decide next year whether to define marriage in the state constitution as between one man and one woman.

Gay rights supporters contend the constitutional change is unnecessary and would run counter to the trend of increased acceptance of gay couples.

Political and social activists nationwide are keeping a close eye on the debate in Raleigh, which could turn into a yearlong fight with deep political overtones.