A constitutional amendment that seeks to define marriage as a heterosexual union could be considered in the North Carolina General Assembly as early as this week.

The Associated Press is reporting that House Majority Leader Paul Stam said he's uncertain which amendments might come up for consideration, but the marriage amendment is a likely candidate.

House speaker Thom Tillis earlier told the Citizen-Times that he believes the House will approve the amendment and send it to voters for their approval in 2012.

The proposed 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.

“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 about his view on gay marriage.

Approval requires a three-fifths majority in each chamber.