Supporters of a bill that would ask voters to write a ban on same-sex marriage into the state Constitution say it has its best chance at passage since they started pushing for it in 2004.
Sen. James Forrester, a Gaston County Republican, has filed the bill consistently for nearly a decade, but the proposal never made it to a full vote. Democrats held control of both the House and Senate for most of those years.
With Republicans now controlling the legislature, Forrester is looking forward to hearings and a victory.
"I think we have enough votes to get it passed," he said. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers, and similar bills in past years have drawn bi-partisan support.
The proposed amendment would go on the 2012 ballot if three-fifths of the House and Senate vote in favor. The governor cannot veto proposed constitutional amendments.
In 2007, a House bill calling for a same-sex marriage constitutional ban had 66 sponsors and co-sponsors - just six people short of the votes needed to pass - in a year when Republicans were in the minority. The bill made it out of a House committee, but then House-Speaker Joe Hackney, an Orange County Democrat, used the power of his office to kill the proposal.
This year's Senate bill has 23 sponsors. If it gets to the Senate floor, it can pass even if only the chamber's 30 Republicans vote for it.
Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, has co-sponsored same-sex ban bills in past years, including in 2007, 2008 and 2009. He said last week that hearings on the new bill haven't been scheduled because the Senate will deal with the budget and redistricting first.
"I'd say later rather than sooner," Berger said. "No decision has been made."
The state already has a law banning same-sex marriage, but supporters of the constitutional amendment said the law isn't enough. The law is vulnerable to changes by future legislatures, Forrester said, or to a judge who thinks it's wrong.
The amendment "prevents a liberal judge from saying 'no,' " Forrester said.
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