North Carolina State House Speaker Thom Tillis believes the House will approve a gay marriage ban amendment and send it to voters for their approval in 2012.

The constitutional amendment would define marriage as a heterosexual union, thereby banning gay and lesbian couples from marrying. The legislation was introduced in the Senate in February and in the House in April.

The Senate version explicitly bans other unions in addition to marriage, which might include civil unions and domestic partnerships, but the House version only covers marriage. Gay rights activists worry that the Senate version could outlaw domestic partner benefits currently offered by private sector employers.

In an interview with the Citizen-Times, Tillis said the believes the amendment will clear his chamber.

“The defense of marriage is one that a number of folks in our base feel very strongly about,” Tillis said. “Generally speaking, it polls fairly high across the voter base. It's not a particularly partisan thing.”

Tillis said he personally believes “data” show that heterosexual marriages are more stable and nurturing when asked his view on gay marriage.

Lawmakers are expected to take up the legislation during a special session in the fall.