North Carolina's top Republican, State House Speaker Thom Tillis, has said a proposed gay marriage ban is not about rights.

At a Student Government Association-sponsored town hall meeting on Monday at the Appalachian State University, Tillis was asked about the proposed constitutional amendment, which will go before voters in May.

When student Catherine Hopkins questioned how Tillis reconciled the amendment with the Pledge of Allegiance, he denied the measure was about rights.

“My understanding of the Constitution is, it's largely in place to protect the rights of the citizens. How do you see that amendment defending liberty and justice for all?” she asked.

“My difficulty [with the measure] has to do with the role of government and the extent to which government imposes its will on personal lives,” he said, the Watauga Democrat reported. “But there are a large number of members who felt very passionately about it.”

“Anyone, whether they be gay, lesbian, transgendered, will still be afforded the same basic rights guaranteed under the Constitution, before or after the amendment. It has continued to be a debate that has gone on for years. … I felt the best thing for us to do is put this to a vote before the people.”

The proposed amendment would bar North Carolina from recognizing gay and lesbian couples with marriage, civil unions and possibly domestic partnerships.