- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

4:06 p.m.

The Senate today rejected a constitutional amendment to ban homosexual “marriage,” dealing an embarrassing defeat to President Bush and Republicans who had hoped to use the measure to energize conservative voters on Election Day.

Supporters knew they wouldn’t achieve the two-thirds vote needed to approve a constitutional amendment, but they had predicted a majority of votes. Instead, they fell one short, 49-48.

That was one vote more than they got last time the Senate voted on the matter, in 2004.

“We were hoping to get over 50 percent, but that didn’t happen today,” said Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, one of the amendment’s supporters. “Eventually, Congress is going to have to catch up to the wisdom of the American people or the American people will change Congress for the better.”

“We’re not going to stop until marriage between a man and a woman is protected,” said Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican.

Today’s vote fell 11 short of the 60 required to send the matter for an up-or-down tally in the Senate. The 2004 vote was 50-48.

Supporters lost two key “yes” votes — one from Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, who has changed his mind since 2004, and another from Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, who did not vote this time because he was traveling with Mr. Bush.

Mr. Gregg said that in 2004, he believed the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex “marriage” in that state would undermine the prerogatives of other states, such as his, to prohibit such unions.

“Fortunately, such legal pandemonium has not ensued,” Mr. Gregg said . “The past two years have shown that federalism, not more federal laws, is a viable and preferable approach.”

A majority of Americans define marriage as a union of a man and a woman, as the proposed amendment does, according to a poll out this week by ABC News. However, an equal majority oppose amending the Constitution on this issue, the poll found.

“Most Americans are not yet convinced that their elected representatives or the judiciary are likely to expand decisively the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, a possible presidential candidate in 2008. He told the Senate yesterday that he does not support the amendment.

The tally put the ban 18 votes short of the 67 needed for the Senate to approve a constitutional amendment.

The defeat is by no means the amendment’s last stand, its supporters said.

“I do not believe the sponsors are going to fall back and cry about it,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican. “I think they are going to keep bringing it up.”

The House plans a redux next month, said Majority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio.

“This is an issue that is of significant importance to many Americans,” Mr. Boehner told reporters. “We have significant numbers of our members who want a vote on this, so we are going to have a vote.”

The defeat came despite daily appeals for passage from Mr. Bush, whose standing is troubled by sagging poll numbers and a dissatisfied conservative base.

The Vatican also added muscle to the argument yesterday, naming homosexual “marriage” as one of the factors threatening the traditional family as never before.

Democrats said the debate was a divisive political ploy.

“The Republican leadership is asking us to spend time writing bigotry into the Constitution,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, which legalized homosexual “marriage” in 2003. “A vote for it is a vote against civil unions, against domestic partnership, against all other efforts for states to treat gays and lesbians fairly under the law.”

In response, Mr. Hatch said: “Does he really want to suggest that over half of the United States Senate is a crew of bigots?”

Forty-five of the 50 states have acted to define traditional marriage in ways that would ban same-sex “marriage” — 19 with constitutional amendments and 26 with statutes.

The amendment would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex “marriages.” To become ratified, it would need two-thirds support in the Senate and House and then would have to be ratified by at least 38 state legislatures.

Seven Republicans, many from New England, voted to kill the amendment. They are Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Susan Collins of Maine, Mr. Gregg, Mr. McCain, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire.

Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the only Democratic senator who supports the amendment, voted yes. The only other Democrat to vote in favor of moving forward with an up-or-down vote was Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who opposes the amendment.

Three senators did not vote: Democrats Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia; and Mr. Hagel.

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