- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Senators will vote today on a constitutional marriage amendment that doesn’t have enough support to pass, and Democrats yesterday tried to force a vote on gas prices to show that other issues are more pressing and that Republicans are playing politics.

“This is not what the American people want to talk about,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said of the marriage amendment, which would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The Nevada Democrat interrupted the marriage debate by trying to call up a bill to prevent price gouging at the gas pumps. He was blocked by Republicans.

Republican leaders and President Bush, facing sagging poll numbers and a restless conservative base, have been pushing hard for the constitutional marriage amendment, which is a top priority for conservative groups. A House vote is expected soon.

Sponsors of the marriage proposal expect about 52 votes today on a motion to cut off debate and force a final vote. The motion would need 60 votes to pass, and the amendment itself would need two-thirds, or 67 votes, to be approved.

“It’s not about the preservation of marriage. It’s about the preservation of the majority, the Republican majority. That’s the ‘M’ word that’s behind this debate,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. He cited a Gallup Poll in April that found Americans ranked same-sex “marriage” 33rd on a list of most important issues facing the country.

Supporters said it is a fundamental concern when courts are trying to force states to accept same-sex “marriage.”

“This issue is going to be defined by either the courts or the legislative bodies, period,” said Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican. “We seek to have it defined by legislative bodies.”

In response to Democrats’ attack, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, issued a statement saying a majority of Americans support traditional marriage and that his party has “a record of accomplishments and meaningful solutions” on the economy, prescription drug coverage and other issues.

Nineteen states have constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of a man and woman, and 26 states have similar statutes. Nine states face lawsuits challenging their traditional marriage laws. Four of these states have had their laws overturned and are awaiting state Supreme Court decisions.

Polls show a majority of Americans oppose same-sex “marriage.” The public is more evenly split on whether a constitutional amendment is the solution. A Gallup Poll released last month shows 50 percent favoring an amendment and 47 percent opposing.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote today, some groups say they will make sure the marriage issue remains a priority in the Senate. The Family Research Council plans to campaign against senators who vote against the proposed amendment. The group has begun attacking Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and John McCain, Arizona Republican, both of whom are expected to oppose the measure.

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