Gay Marriage Ban Fails in Senate Vote
By CARL HULSE
Published: June 7, 2006
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 at risk."
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-sex marriage.
"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."
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.
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