By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: June 7, 2006
Filed at 11:16 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate on Wednesday rejected a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, dealing a defeat to President Bush and Republicans who hoped to use the measure to energize conservative voters on Election Day.
Supporters had predicted they would gain votes this year over the last time the issue came up, in 2004, but actually lost one vote for the amendment in a procedural test tally.
Wednesday's 49-48 vote fell 11 short of the 60 required to send the matter for an up-or-down tally. The 2004 vote was 50-48.
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 opposes amending the Constitution on this issue, the poll found.
''Most Americans are not yet convinced that their elected representatives or the judiciary are likely to expand decisively the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples,'' said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a possible presidential candidate in 2008. He told the Senate on Tuesday he does not support the amendment.
The tally Wednesday put the ban 18 votes short of the 67 needed for the Senate to approve a constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds vote.
But the defeat is by no means the amendment's last stand, said its supporters.
''I do not believe the sponsors are going to fall back and cry about it,'' said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. ''I think they are going to keep bringing it up.''
The House plans a redux next month, said Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
''This is an issue that is of significant importance to many Americans,'' Boehner told reporters. ''We have significant numbers of our members who want a vote on this, so we are going to have a vote.''
The defeat came despite daily appeals for passage from Bush, whose standing is troubled by sagging poll numbers and a dissatisfied conservative base.
The Vatican also added muscle to the argument Tuesday, naming gay marriage as one of the factors threatening the traditional family as never before.
Democrats said the debate was a divisive political ploy.
''The Republican leadership is asking us to spend time writing bigotry into the Constitution,'' said Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, which legalized gay marriage in 2003. ''A vote for it is a vote against civil unions, against domestic partnership, against all other efforts for states to treat gays and lesbians fairly under the law.''
In response, Hatch fumed: ''Does he really want to suggest that over half of the United States Senate is a crew of bigots?''
Forty-five of the 50 states have acted to define traditional marriage in ways that would ban same-sex marriage -- 19 with constitutional amendments and 26 with statutes.
The amendment would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages. To become law, it would need two-thirds support in the Senate and House, and then would have to be ratified by at least 38 state legislatures.
Seven Republicans, many from New England, voted to kill the amendment. They were Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Susan Collins of Maine, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, John McCain of Arizona, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John Sununu of New Hampshire.
Two Democrats voted for the amendment: Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
Three senators did not vote: Democrats Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and John Rockefeller of West Virginia, and Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Gay-Marriage.html?hp&ex=1149739200&en=136ac3d6b439b193&ei=5094&partner=homepage