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US Senate debates ban on gay marriage

Gay marriage has been a hot topic since a Massachusetts court ruled in 2003 that the legislature could not ban it.

india Updated: Jun 06, 2006 12:25 IST

Urged on by President George W Bush, the US Senate on Monday debated a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that both backers and opponents say has little chance of passage.

Bush, speaking out again on the hot-button election-year issue, and other advocates said the amendment would prevent "activist judges" from striking down existing state laws that prohibit same-sex marriage.

Opponents said the measure was a transparent attempt to shore up support among social conservatives before November's congressional election, in a similar manner to the 2004 presidential campaign, when Congress should be dealing with issues like high gasoline prices and the war in Iraq.

"The reason for this debate is to divide our society, to pit one against another," Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said.

"It's this administration's way of avoiding the tough, the real problems that American citizens are confronted with each and every day."

Bush pressed the issue before supporters at the White House.

"State legislatures are trying to address this issue, but across the country they are being thwarted by activist judges who are overturning the express will of their people," he insisted at the news conference.

The daughter of Bush's vice president, Mary Cheney, was on record criticising such moves.

"The notion of amending the Constitution and ... writing discrimination into the Constitution of the United States is fundamentally wrong," she said in a recent interview with CNN.

The bill is not expected to win the 67 votes required for passage of constitutional amendments in the 100-member Senate. Bill sponsor Colorado Republican Sen Wayne Allard has said he expects to attract 52 votes.

Because the measure seeks to change the Constitution, it faces the steep hurdle of winning passage in both the Senate and the House of Representatives by a two-thirds majority and then winning approval from at least 38 of the 50 U.S. states.

A gay-marriage ban failed in both houses of Congress in 2004.

Gay marriage has been a hot topic since a Massachusetts court ruled in 2003 that the legislature could not ban it, paving the way for the first U.S. same-sex marriages in 2004.

Forty-five states have passed laws or amended constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage. Aside from Massachusetts, where gay marriages are fully recognized, six states and the District of Columbia offer same-sex couples some legal protection.