About 70 people attended a noontime rally Tuesday on the grounds of the old Capitol building, sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage.
Across the street, another 200 people in support of gay rights held a counter-protest, chanting and holding placards.
Kristin Nagy, a lesbian from Cary came with her son - a son with two mommies.
"Everybody has a right to give their point of view and so we're here to give ours," she said.
On the other side, Stan and Martha Harper of Knightdale stood in the sweltering noonday heat for an hour to oppose legalizing gay unions.
"It will demean marriage," Martha Harper said. "People will not see the privilege of being married."
They say they applauded the head of the North Carolina Christian Action League, Rev. Mark Creech, when he told the crowd, "other relationships are not deserving of state sanction and promotion, because they do not contribute to the degree that natural marriage can or does."
But Michael Lester of Raleigh, one of the organizers of the counter protest, says he was taking a stand for equality.
"That kind of hate language is repressive and it's going backwards instead of forwards as a country," he said.
But Lee Rivers of Cary says the rally for marriage wasn't hate based.
"I don't hate gays or homosexuals at all," he said. "It's just a standard and a principle."
At times the crowd across the street was so loud it drowned out the speakers for the National Organization for Marriage.
National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown told reporters it's time for North Carolina lawmakers to allow a referendum on a state constitutional amendment restricting marriage to between one man and one woman.
North Carolina is the only Southeastern state that hasn't approved one.
Arguments have intensified since a federal judge last week struck down California's voter-approved same-sex marriage ban.