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Senate Rejects Proposed Amendment That Would Ban Same-Sex Marriage

By Carl Hulse


As expected, the Senate on Wednesday rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, rebuffing both President Bush and the social conservative movement.

After two days of sometimes-emotional argument, the Senate voted 49-48 to shut off debate on a call to bring the amendment to the floor. The total fell well short of the 60 votes needed to overcome the procedural obstacle, let alone the 67 votes required to approve a constitutional amendment.

The decision effectively killed the issue for the year in the Senate, though the House is expected to consider its own version this summer.

Democratic critics of the proposal said its Republican authors had advanced it to rally conservative voters, even though lawmakers knew it would be defeated. They said it was tantamount to writing discrimination into the Constitution.

Opponents also said that marriage should remain regulated by the states, dismissing assertions that federal intervention was needed to protect the traditional union between a man and a woman.

“All over the country, married heterosexual couples are shaking their heads and wondering how exactly the prospect of gay marriage threatens the health of their marriages,” said Sen. Russell D. Feingold, D-Wis.

Supporters of the ban gained one vote from the last time the Senate considered the issue, before the 2004 election. But they were still unable to break the symbolic 50-vote threshold despite an increase in the Republican majority, the lobbying pressure by religious conservatives and Bush’s repeated calls for approval of the amendment.

In a statement after the Senate action, Bush expressed disappointment but said the vote “marks the start of a new chapter in this important national debate.”

“Our nation’s founders set a high bar for amending our Constitution — and history has shown us that it can take several tries before an amendment builds the two-thirds support it needs in both houses of Congress,” he said.