Yesterday, North Carolina voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that protects marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Unofficial results show more than 60 percent support for the amendment, a result described by the National Organization for Marriage as “an overwhelming endorsement” of the traditional understanding of marriage.

North Carolina is the 31st state to adopt a marriage amendment.

State constitutional amendments play an important part in helping to strengthen marriage by protecting marriage from judicial activism in state courts.

Marriage amendments also settle the marriage question for state lawmakers and reinforce the understanding that marriage as one man and one woman is deeply rooted in American values, history, and traditions.

North Carolina’s vote for marriage also provides further evidence undermining the myth that same-sex marriage is “inevitable.”

From California (where voters adopted a marriage amendment in 2008) to Maine (where voters rejected same-sex marriage legislation in 2009) and places between such as Iowa (where in 2010 voters rejected three state supreme court judges who had imposed same-sex marriage in that state), voters consistently support marriage when given the opportunity to vote.

On one side of this debate is the view that the traditional understanding of marriage is a form of institutionalized bigotry no different from racism. In this view, it is unjust for the state not to bless same-sex unions with both the benefits and label of “marriage.” Private institutions and individuals who object to facilitating or expressing moral support for same-sex marriage could face potential civil liability and discrimination in access to government benefits. Too often, those who disagree with redefining marriage are also subject to public derision and even threats, intimidation, and other harms.

On the other side of this debate is the view that marriage is a natural institution that the state does not create but should protect because of society’s civilizational interest in promoting childbearing and the faithfulness of spouses to each other and their dependent children. Proponents of the traditional understanding of marriage focus on the public purposes of marriage, not the private reasons that individuals might choose to marry.

They also defy intense stereotyping by articulating a wide range of nonreligious reasons for supporting a traditional marriage policy, including that redefining marriage will contribute to an expanded and more intrusive government role in private life. In this view, support for marriage as one man and one woman does not equal animosity against friends, family, and co-workers who experience same-sex attraction. Rather, support for marriage reflects a morally just and constitutionally valid social judgment that the unique union of a husband and wife should be accorded a unique status in culture and law and that doing so provides significant benefits to children and society.

As the U.S. Supreme Court recognized long ago, “the public is deeply interested” in the institution of marriage, “for it is the foundation of the family and of society,” and without it “there would be neither civilization nor progress.”

By voting to support marriage in their state constitution, voters in North Carolina have demonstrated their view that the institution of marriage remains just as important today.