The lead group pushing the marriage amendment is begining to put up billboards around the state, the first phase of its growing advertising campaign.

Starting Tuesday, Minnesota for Marriage will put up about 25 billboards in the Twin Cities, Duluth, St. Cloud and Rochester. The billboards say marriage equals one man and one woman, and then urges people to vote yes on the amendment.

“This signals that we are in the home stretch and the beginning of our messaging,” said Chuck Darrell, spokesman for Minnesota for Marriage.

Supporters are pushing a proposed amendment that would add language into the state constitution defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. State law already forbids same-sex marriage, but supporters say the constitutional change is necessary to block future judges and legislators from changing the law.

Opponents argue the measure discriminates against loving and committed gay and lesbian couples who want to marry.

The billboards are going up about a week ahead of the launch of the group’s first television advertisements, Darrell said.

Minnesota for Marriage has also given out 40,000 yard signs to date, Darrell said. It is expecting another 25,000 to arrive at its headquarters Tuesday.

“We are just getting hammered all day for signs,” Darrell said.

Minnesotans United for All Families, the lead group opposing the amendment, has also sold tens of thousands of signs.

The two sides are locked in a bitter and breathtakingly close fight. A recent Star Tribune Minnesota Poll found the race in a statistical dead heat, with supporters up 49 percent to 47 percent for opponents.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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