Opponents of a proposed North Carolina amendment that would ban gay marriage said Saturday they worry that the debate could turn ugly.

Earlier this month, the North Carolina General Assembly approved a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in the state and sent it to voters for their approval in May. The legislation moved from House committee to final approval in the Senate in roughly 26 hours. All together, lawmakers spent less than six hours debating the issue and blocked the public from debating on the divisive legislation.

At Durham's annual Gay Pride Parade, supporters told WRAL that they were planning to keep the debate positive.

“We intend to keep the rhetoric positive. This is about marriage, the protection of marriage,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition. “We expect a groundswell of support from people across the state because the polls tell us that people care very deeply about protecting marriage from being redefined.”

Chris Fitzsimon, executive director of North Carolina Policy Watch, said he wasn't so sure: “I think, unfortunately, there will be a number of opportunities for demeaning speech. I think we've had, generally, a deserved reputation as a progressive southern state and I think that's at stake here.”

“We're going to actually vote and have a majority decide the rights of a minority in North Carolina,” he added. “That's not what the constitution is for.”

Fitzsimon has reason to worry. In comments made at public forums, lawmakers have compared gay people to a “cesspool,” argued that gay marriage would open the door to incest and polygamy, and called gay people “unhealthy.”