CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP) – In a move that could sway some voters in the final days leading up to Tuesday’s vote, evangelist Billy Graham has announced his support for a proposed constitutional marriage amendment in his home state of North Carolina, and his ministry will pay for 14 newspaper ads across the state featuring him.
The ads show a picture of a smiling Graham beneath the words: “At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage. The Bible is clear – God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8. God bless you as you vote.” The ads, which will run over the weekend, make clear they were paid for by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham lives in Montreat, N.C.
Although retired, Graham remains a popular figure in North Carolina, and a section of a major road in Charlotte is even named the Billy Graham Parkway.
If the amendment passes, North Carolina would become the 30th state defining marriage in a state constitution as between a man and a woman – and preventing state courts from legalizing gay “marriage,” as happened in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa. North Carolina is the only state in the South without such an amendment.
Graham’s public statement comes after son Franklin Graham and daughter Anne Graham Lotz also announced their support for the amendment, which will be on the May 8 primary ballot. Early voting, though, began in April, and North Carolinians could set a record for early voting turnout in a primary – a remarkable stat when considering early voting began in 2000 and several high-profile presidential primaries have taken place since. The first week of early voting in April did set a record, according to the News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh. With no contested presidential race on the ballot, the amendment seems to be driving voters to the polls.
The main group supporting the amendment, Vote For Marriage NC, has raised only half of the money raised by the opposition group, the Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families. Through April 23, the Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families had raised $2.3 million while Vote For Marriage NC had raise $1.2 million, according to the Associated Press. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay group, was the biggest donor to the coalition, contributing $246,499. On the other side, the Christian Action League of North Carolina ($311,533) and the National Organization for Marriage ($302,950) were the top contributors to Vote for Marriage NC.
Despite trailing in fundraising, the pro-amendment side still leads in polls. The latest survey, conducted by SurveyUSA, shows the amendment leading, 57-37 percent, among 1,127 voters who are likely to vote or already have voted. But among the 10 percent of those who already have voted, the amendment leads only 50-46 percent.
Participation by Christians and churches could help determine whether the amendment passes, officials with Vote for Marriage NC say. The IRS allows churches to take positions on such ballot issues as marriage amendments.
Article compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press (BaptistPress.com).