Gay marriage ban fails to pass US Senate

WASHINGTON – A constitutional amendment seeking a national ban on gay marriage, strongly backed by US President George W. Bush and conservative Christian groups, failed to pass the US Senate.

The Republican-controlled upper chamber failed to endorse the amendment despite a majority of senators backing the proposal in a 49 to 48 vote. The measure required the backing of two-thirds of the Senate for it to be approved and taken forward to a formal vote.

With just five months before November legislative elections that are expected to be dominated by the war in Iraq, illegal immigration and soaring energy bills, Bush has called for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

Gay rights groups applauded the amendment’s defeat. The Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative gay rights group, said in a statement that the “Senate gave a resounding defeat to the voices of intolerance who are trying to use the Constitution as a political tool.”

The group thanked Republican Senator John McCain and other lawmakers for opposing the measure in a statement on its website.

Senior Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy criticized Bush’s use of a constitutional amendment to push the issue. “The Constitution is too important to be used for partisan political purposes. It is not a billboard on which to hang political posters or slogans seeking to stir public passions for political ends,” Leahy said.