RALEIGH, N.C. — Pastors 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 ran for governor in 2012, he supported the state amendment that defined marriage as between a man and woman. But the socially moderate Republican governor has said little on recent lawsuits challenging the ban.
On the steps of the old Capitol building, about 30 people from the North Carolina Pastors Network rallied. The group described rulings that have overturned gay marriage bans across the country as judicial tyranny. The group is also sending McCrory a petition asking him to use his executive powers to defend the amendment that was approved by 61 percent of voters in 2012.
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 that state 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. They are North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland, which is the only state among the five that allows 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."
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 ever have imagined," said Harris, a former U.S. Senate candidate who lost to House Speaker Thom Tillis in the Republican primary. "We are seeing judges who believe they cannot only interpret the law, they believe they can make and implement the law."
McCrory's office did not offer a response to the petition Tuesday.
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 said.