|Updated 9:43 p.m. Eastern
RALEIGH, N.C. (BP) -- North Carolina Tuesday became the 30th state to define marriage within its constitution as between a man and a woman when a proposal that had drawn nationwide attention passed easily.
With 54 percent of the vote reported, the amendment led by a margin of 60-40 percent, according to WCNC. The Associated Press called the race just after 9 p.m. Eastern.
Critics said the amendment was unnecessary because the state already defines marriage in the traditional sense, but supporters countered that North Carolina needed such an amendment to prevent a state court from legalizing gay "marriage," as has happened in Massachusetts, Iowa and Connecticut.
The final pre-election poll from left-leaning Public Policy Polling had the amendment up among likely voters, 57-39 percent. Historically, marriage amendments have outperformed surveys.
North Carolina was the last remaining state in the Southeast to pass such an amendment. While the amendments have been popular in conservative-leaning states, they've also passed in such left-leaning states as Michigan, Wisconsin and Oregon. Minnesota, another "blue" state, will vote on one in November.
Some critics also criticized the amendment for prohibiting not only gay "marriage" but also New Jersey-style civil unions, which grant same-sex couples all the state legal benefits of marriage, minus the name. Supporters, though, said civil unions were simply a stepping stone to gay "marriage" legalization, and they noted that three states -- Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut -- had legalized civil unions only to follow by changing the marriage law, too.
The heart of North Carolina's amendment reads, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State." Opponents tried to change the subject from marriage in the closing weeks of the campaign, charging that the "domestic legal union" language could endanger women by impacting the state's domestic violence statutes. Although some legal scholars shared that opinion, others disagreed, pointing out that other states have similar language in their constitutions and have had no problems. For instance, Idaho's amendment is identical.