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Bush to push gay marriage ban

Through this move, the President seeks to consolidate the Republican political base ahead of the congressional polls.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2006 17:15 IST

US President George W Bush on Saturday kicked off a campaign for a constitutional ban on gay marriage as he sought to consolidate the Republican political base ahead of the November congressional elections and shift the national debate to what he sees as winning themes.

His passionate plug for a constitutional amendment that would formally define marriage as the union between a man and a woman, delivered in a weekly radio address, sets off a series of political events that are expected to culminate next week with a US Senate vote on the measure.

"Ages of experience have taught us that the commitment of a husband and a wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society," Bush insisted.

He said the issue required "a national solution" because of "activist judges," who have recently struck down laws upholding traditional marriage in the states of Washington, California, Maryland, New York and Nebraska, and other states could be soon forced to accept matrimony between homosexuals.

"An amendment to the constitution is necessary because activist courts have left our nation with no other choice," the president argued.

The measure lacks the votes for passage because constitutional amendments require support from two-thirds of the members of either the Senate or the House of Representatives.

But a formal roll call, Republican strategists hope, will allow them to cast Democrats as supporters of gay marriage a possibly win votes in November.

A Gallup opinion poll conducted last month found that by a margin of 58 per cent to 39 per cent Americans believe the gay marriage should not be recognise by law as valid, and 50 per cent versus 47 per cent supported a constitutional amendment to uphold traditional marriage.

The question, however, is whether voters agree to consider gay marriage a national priority.

A survey by CNN television made public last month listed terrorism, the war in Iraq, and high gas prices among the top concerns for Americans this year. Gay marriage did not even make the seven-item list.

This weakness was immediately exploited by Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid who said he considered the issue untimely because it distracted lawmakers from more pressing concerns.

"Unfortunately, Bush Republicans would rather focus on purely divisive manoeuvres than real solutions that address the growing energy crisis," he grumbled.

But Republicans remember the role gay marriage played in the 2004 election campaign, during which Bush was re-elected for a second term.

In February 2004, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, the home state of the Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, voted to legalise same-sex marriage, propelling the issue to the forefront of the election campaign.

At about the same time, same-sex weddings began in San Francisco under the patronage of the liberal local mayor.

As a result, at least 13 states have passed local constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, and Bush was able to energise his conservative base and boost support among Hispanic voters from 35 per cent in 2000 to 44 per cent in 2004.

While normally gravitating towards Democrats, Hispanics are mostly devout Catholics, who closely follow church teachings on issues like marriage and family.

Like the Bush administration, the Vatican is strongly opposed to gay marriage.