North Carolina's top Republican, State House Speaker Thom Tillis, is ready to put a gay marriage ban on next year's ballot.

At a packed town hall meeting in Cornelius, Tillis was asked about a legislative proposal expected to be debated next month during a special session. The proposal would define marriage as a heterosexual union in the state's constitution.

“Can you explain to us why you're squandering taxpayer resources on this hateful legislation?” a woman asked.

“That's a fair question,” Tillis answered.

He went on to call marriage between a man and a woman “the bedroom of society,” then added: “I do believe your side has arguments to be heard.”

“(We'll) let the democratic process take its course,” he said, the Charlotte Observer reported.

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 last month with the Citizen-Times, Tillis said he 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.

Voters in Minnesota will vote on a similar amendment next year.