North Carolina's Republican House could have put the gay-marriage ban on the November ballot, when it might have boosted the vote for President Obama's Republican challenger. Instead, the House scheduled it for May.
The North Carolina House voted Monday to allow a May referendum on whether to enshrine a ban on gay marriage in the state constitution.
North Carolina already has a law defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, but supporters say making the ban part of the state constitution will make legal challenges more difficult. North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
The timing of the ballot measure is significant. Critics of the measure had charged that the Republican-led legislature would schedule the referendum for next November to try to boost conservative turnout during next year's presidential election. President Obama won North Carolina in 2008 by a thin margin.