By LAURIE KELLMAN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON The Senate
rejected a constitutional amendment
to ban gay marriage by a
wide margin Wednesday, delivering
a stinging defeat to President
Bush and other Republicans who
hope the issue will rally GOP voters
for the November elections.
The senators’ vote was 49-48 to
limit debate and bring the amendment
to a yes-or-no decision. That
was 11 short of the 60 needed,
killing the measure in the Senate
for this year.
Bush suggested the ban was
proper and its time would still
come. He said, “Our nation’s
founders set a high bar for
amending our Constitution 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
Democrats suggested it was
all about conservative politics.
“Why is it when Republicans
are all for reducing the federal
government’s impact on people’s
lives until it comes to these stinging
litmus test issues, whether
gay marriage or end of life they
suddenly want the federal government
to intervene?” asked Sen.
Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “It
makes no sense other than throwing
red meat to a certain constituency.”
The 49 votes to keep the
amendment alive were one more
than the measure received the
last time the Senate voted, in
2004. Proponents had predicted
the amendment would get at least
a 51-vote majority in the 100-
member Senate with the gain four
Republican seats since then.
It takes two-thirds majorities
in both houses of Congress to
send a proposed amendment to
the states for ratification. The
House will take up the issue next
Despite the defeat, amendment
backers insisted progress
had been made because the
debate over three days raised the
issue’s profile and will force candidates
to answer for their votes
on the campaign trail.
“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,” said
Sen. David Vitter, R-La.
“We’re not going to stop until
marriage between a man and a
woman is protected,” said Sen.
Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
Most bitter to the amendments’
authors was the loss of
support in their own GOP caucus.
Two Republicans changed their
votes from yes in 2004 to no this
time: Judd Gregg of New
Hampshire and Arlen Specter of
Pennsylvania. Chuck Hagel of
Nebraska did not vote Wednesday
because he was traveling with
All told, seven Republicans
voted to kill the amendment. The
five others were Lincoln Chafee
of Rhode Island, Susan Collins of
Maine, John McCain of Arizona,
Olympia Snowe of Maine and
John Sununu of New Hampshire.
Gregg said that in 2004, he
believed a Massachusetts
Supreme Court decision legalizing
same-sex marriage in that state
would undermine the authority of
other states, like his, to prohibit
“Fortunately, such legal pandemonium
has not ensued,”
Gregg said. “The past two years
have shown that federalism, not
more federal laws, is a viable and
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. But an equal majority
oppose amending the Constitution
over the issue, the poll found.
The tally Wednesday put the
ban 18 votes short of the 67 needed
for the Senate to approve a
Supporters of the amendment
acknowledged disappointment in
the vote and, to some extent,
Bush’s advocacy. “He could have
done more, but he doesn’t have a
vote in this one,” Brownback said
of the president.
Forty-five of the 50 states have
acted to define traditional marriage
in ways that would ban
same-sex marriage 19 with
state constitutional amendments
and 26 with statutes.
The proposed federal amendment
would prohibit states from
recognizing same-sex marriages.
After approval by Congress, it
would have to be ratified by at
least 38 state legislatures.
Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska
was the only Senate Democrat
who supported the amendment.
Democrat Robert Byrd of West
Virginia voted “yes” on
Wednesday’s motion to move forward
with an up-or-down vote on
the amendment but said he
opposed the measure itself.
Three senators did not vote:
Democrats Christopher Dodd of
Connecticut and John Rockefeller
of West Virginia as well as
Republican Hagel of Nebraska.