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Senators reject gay-marriage ban
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — Senate conservatives failed Wednesday to win enough support to proceed with an election-year constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.
A procedural motion failed, 49-48, falling 11 votes short of the 60 needed to call an up-or-down vote on the chamber floor. It also was short of a majority in the 100-member Senate, a symbolic mark supporters had hoped to reach.
Supporters declared the vote a kind of interim victory, noting they gained one vote more than they had in 2004, the last time the matter was debated in Congress.
"We're going to continue to press this issue," Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., the amendment's sponsor, said after the vote. "If it's up to me, we'll have a vote on this issue every year."
Democrats denounced the effort to amend the Constitution as a ploy to rally conservative voters at a time support for the Republican Party and President Bush is flagging.
The House is expected to take up the same measure next month, but it is also expected to fall short.
"This is a big issue with lots of our members and, frankly, with lots of Americans," said House Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio. "So bringing this issue to the floor, allowing it to be debated, voted on, I think is a good idea."
Polls show that a majority of Americans think marriage should be limited to opposite-sex couples, but they also show that a majority do not support amending the Constitution to make the point.
The amendment's supporters said the definition of marriage is under state-by-state threat from court challenges, and the best way to prevent same-sex marriages from gaining legal status is to amend the Constitution.
"We're making progress in the Senate. We're making progress across the country, in the states," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. "And we will not stop until marriage as the union of a man and a woman is protected in this country, protected in the courts, protected in the Constitution, but most of all, protected for the people and for the future of our children in this society."
Two — Gregg and Specter — changed their votes from 2004.
"At the time, there was genuine cause for concern that the Massachusetts Supreme Court, or any other court, would cause legal chaos across the country and force same-sex marriage to be recognized in states like New Hampshire that prohibit such union," Gregg said in a statement. "Fortunately, such legal pandemonium has not ensued."
Gregg and McCain, an expected candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, said marriage laws should be left to the states.
Two Democrats — Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia — voted with Republicans in favor of proceeding on the amendment.
Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats, voted against proceeding on the amendment.
Three senators were absent for the vote: Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.
Senate rules require 60 votes to pass a motion to end debate. A constitutional amendment needs a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress, followed by ratification by three-quarters of the states.
The outcome of this year's vote was a particular disappointment for conservatives because the debate had received a personal jump-start from the president, who rallied supporters at the White House on Monday.
Bush said he was disappointed. "Our nation's founders set a high bar for amending our Constitution," he said, "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."
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company