Gay Marriage Ban Fails in Senate Vote
Gay Marriage Ban Fails in Senate Vote
By CARL HULSE
WASHINGTON, June 7 The Senate today soundly rejected a proposed
constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, dismissing
arguments by social conservatives that federal intervention is
needed to preserve the traditional tie between a man and woman.
After two days of sometimes emotional argument, the Senate voted 49-
to-48 against shutting off debate on the issue, well short of the 60
votes needed to move ahead with formally considering the amendment,
let alone the 67 votes required by the Constitution to approve it.
The decision effectively killed the issue for the year in the
Senate, although the House of Representatives is expected to
consider its own version later this summer.
Democratic critics of the proposed amendment said its Republican
authors advanced it to rally socially conservative voters even
though lawmakers knew it would be defeated. Opponents of the
amendment said that marriage should remain regulated by the states
and that the same-sex ban should not be added to the Constitution.
"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 Senator Russell D.
Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin.
Supporters of the ban gained one vote from the last time the Senate
considered the issue prior to the 2004 election. But they still were
unable to break the symbolic 50-vote threshold despite an increase
in the Republican majority. Two Republicans who sided with them the
last time, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Judd Gregg of New
Hampshire, voted against limiting debate.
"The courts have basically upheld the right of states to legislate
and protect themselves and that was not the case last time," Mr.
Gregg said. "I don't think we have to put it in the Constitution
until there is some sort of court decision that would put the states
Senate champions of the marriage amendment said they were not
deterred by the outcome and promised to continue to press the issue.
They said they were gaining ground at the state level, where voters
and state legislatures continue to approve initiatives banning same-
"We have 45 states that have defined marriage as a union of a man
and a woman," said Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of
Kansas. "Since the last time we voted in the Senate, we've seen a
total of 14 states take this issue up on the ballot. And you've got
another seven set for this fall. So we are making progress."
Though some Republicans have suggested the Senate would be better
served politically by focusing on issues that voters see as more
pressing, the author of the amendment did not see it that way.
"If it's up to me, we'll have a vote on this issue every year," said
Senator Wayne Allard, Republican of Colorado. "I think it's
important to the American people."
President Bush said in a statement that the Senate vote "marks the
start of a new chapter in this important national debate" and that
it might take several attempts to build up enough Congressional
support to pass the amendment by the necessary two-thirds majority.
"I am disappointed the Senate did not achieve the necessary number
of votes to move the amendment process forward," he said.
Along with Mr. Specter and Mr. Gregg, the Republican senators who
voted against cloture were Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Susan
Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, John McCain of Arizona and
John E Sununu of New Hampshire.
James E. Jeffords, independent of Vermont, also joined 40 Democrats
in opposing cloture.
The 47 Republicans favoring cloture were joined by two Democrats,
Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
Not voting were two Democrats, Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut
and John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, and one Republican,
Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who was accompanying Mr. Bush in Omaha