Thu, Jul 20, 2006 - Page 6 News List

House rejects amendment to ban same-sex marriage

AP , WASHINGTON

The House of Representatives rejected a proposed US constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, a setback that conservatives hope to turn to their advantage in the fall elections.

"Be assured that this issue is not over," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Tuesday.

The vote was 236-187 with one member voting "present," a slight improvement over the last House vote just before the 2004 election but still 46 short of the two-thirds majority needed to advance a constitutional amendment.

Supporters argued that Con-gress must trump the actions of judges around the US who have ruled in favor of gay marriages.

"We must not allow an institution of such great importance to be arbitrarily redefined for the entire nation by a small number of unelected judges," said Representative Joe Pitts.

Opponents, including 27 Republicans, argued that the measure was meaningless -- the Senate rejected the amendment last month, effectively killing it for this session of Congress -- as well as unneeded and mean-spirited.

"This is a partisan effort by Republicans to divide the American people rather than forge consensus to solve our urgent problems," said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Democrats argued that the House's focus on the Republicans' "American values agenda," which includes votes this week on a pledge protection bill and a vote on President George W. Bush's expected veto of an embryonic stem cell bill, was a distraction at a time the US faced serious domestic and international problems.

Representative Barney Frank, one of just a few openly gay members of Congress, said he took the proposal personally.

"I think this is motivated, frankly, by a dislike of those of us who are gay and lesbian," he said.

The defeat in the House followed a series of victories at the state level where courts, legislatures and voters have come out for gay marriage bans.

Forty-five states have either constitutional amendments banning gay marriage or statutes outlawing same-sex weddings.

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