On the day he was elected to lead the state’s Baptist convention, the Rev. Mark Harris fielded a threatening voice mail that gave him a quick glimpse of the approaching battle over same-sex marriage in North Carolina.

Harris didn’t want to describe the entire message, only the essence: He needed to stop “spewing hatred” toward homosexuals and their families.

In November, Harris, senior minister at uptown Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, was elected to a yearlong term as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, representing 4,300 N.C. Baptist churches and their 1.3 million members.

In that capacity, he is sure to be a point man in the campaign for a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages. The amendment, on the May 8 primary ballot, would restrict the state’s recognition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. It would also place more restrictions on civil unions and domestic partnerships and make it more difficult for future legislators to rescind.

He understands the debate will be emotional on both sides.

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