North Carolina has long prided itself on its moderate politics dating to the civil rights era, as well as its place as a New South leader and a hub for high-tech, banking and higher education.

Even though the state backed Democrat Barack Obama for president in 2008, it has maintained a socially conservative streak, sending the late Republican Sen. Jesse Helms to Washington for 30 years.

Now the Tar Heel State finds itself drawing nationwide attention for a referendum Tuesday on a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, effectively slamming the door shut on same-sex marriages.

Former President Bill Clinton has lent his voice to robocalls opposing the amendment, and 93-year-old evangelist Billy Graham has been featured in full-page newspaper ads backing the gay-marriage ban. Experts expect the measure to pass.


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