Billy Graham has urged North Carolina voters to ban gay marriage in the state's constitution, speaking out on the issue and planning to run full-page ads in 14 papers throughout the weekend, the Associated Press reported.
"Watching the moral decline of our country causes me great concern," said the 93-year-old widely acclaimed evangelist. "I believe the home and marriage is the foundation of our society and must be protected."
North Carolinians will vote on the state's Marriage Amendment Act next Tuesday, which will decide whether or not to amend the state constitution to say that "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State," according to CNN.
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While North Carolina already bans same-sex marriages, Amendment One would effectively ban civil unions and domestic partnerships, as well as make it more difficult to legalize gay marriage in the future, CNN reported.
Graham, who lives near Asheville, N.C., has a history of working with presidents and politicians on either side of the aisle, and is "known for remaining largely on the sidelines on political issues, at least compared to the likes of Jerry Falwell," the Advocate reported. "But not this time."
"At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage," Graham's full-page advertisement reads. "The Bible is clear — God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment act on Tuesday, May 8. God bless you as you vote."
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William Martin, the author of a biography of Graham titled "A Prophet With Honor," told the AP that the evangelist's move to mobilize voters on the issue of homosexual marriage was unprecedented, and that he could not recall a time that the Reverend had taken such a political step.
"I am somewhat surprised that he would take that strong a stand," said Martin, a professor emeritus of religion and public policy at Rice University. "In the past, I have heard him say with respect to homosexuality, there are greater sins."
Although Reverend Graham's last crusade was in 2005, he still strongly exerts his influence in the US: In April 2010, President Barack Obama met with Graham, continuing the evangelist's tradition that started with Dwight Eisenhower of counseling American presidents, according to the AP.
The most recent polls show show Amendment One supporters winning North Carolina's votes, the Advocate reported.
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