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NC pastors call for support on marriage ban

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More than two dozen pastors gather at the state Capitol calling on Gov. McCrory to defend the state's marriage protection act. (Steve Sbraccia, WNCN) More than two dozen pastors gather at the state Capitol calling on Gov. McCrory to defend the state's marriage protection act. (Steve Sbraccia, WNCN)
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Pastors from across the state gathered Tuesday to call on Gov. Pat McCrory to defend North Carolina's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the face of lawsuits from same-sex couples in the state and around the country.

When McCrory, a Republican, ran for governor in 2012, he supported the state amendment that defined marriage as between a man and woman, but the socially moderate governor has said little on recent lawsuits challenging it.

On the steps of the old Capitol building, about 30 people from the North Carolina Pastors Network rallied, describing judges' decisions to overturn gay marriage bans in other states as judicial tyranny. The group is also sending McCrory a petition asking him to use his executive powers to defend the amendment.

In 2012, 61 percent of North Carolina voters approved the amendment.

Since then, several same sex-couples have sued in North Carolina. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who is planning a campaign for governor in 2016, has said he supports gay marriage but will defend the amendment in court.

The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia has heard oral arguments over the same-sex ban in Virginia and is expected to issue a ruling soon. Gay rights groups believe a ruling from the 4th Circuit will affect lawsuits in states covered by the appeals court: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia and Maryland, which is the only state among those allowing same-sex marriage.

A ruling against the amendment would hurt North Carolina's hard-fought traditional marriage victory, said the Rev. Patrick Wooden, senior pastor of Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh.

"People have spoken loud and clear," Wooden said. "We said in this state that we do not want marriage in the state of North Carolina redefined."

As an African-American pastor, Wooden said he sees how the amendment promotes healthy and stable families in the black community.

"Seventy-eight percent of our children are born into homes where there are no dads. We have a disaster going on," he said. "In fact, if we encourage marriage, we won't need as many government handouts."

The Rev. Mark Harris, senior pastor First Baptist Church in Charlotte, said he hopes McCrory will uphold his oath to defend the state constitution.

"Today all of us face a threat of judicial overreach. This issue is quickly becoming far more than some would every have imagined," said Harris, a former U.S. Senate candidate who lost to House Speaker Thom Tillis in the Republican primary. "We have a judicial coup de etat, where we are seeing judges who believe they can not only interpret the law, they believe they can make and implement the law."

McCrory's office said it would have a response later Tuesday.

Craig Johnson and Shawn Long, who have been a couple for 20 years, told WNCN they want their 12-year-old son, Isaiah, to have parents who are legally married.

"We want our son to have all the protections that marriage gives and our marriage impacts no one else," Long said.

"There are any number of families that have a single father, any number of families that have a single mother, so to argue that it's better for a child to have a father and a mother and only direct that towards same-sex couples is irrational," Johnson said.

One mother had a different view. Dionne Harrison attends Wooden's church and came to the rally with her four children to sign the petition.

"Our children need to know about it at this point so they can learn about the values God wants them to have and bring order to our homes and families," she told The Associated Press.

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