WASHINGTON (AP) - A constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was defeated as predicted in the Senate Wednesday, but supporters say new votes for the measure represent progress that gives the GOP's base reason to vote on Election Day.
And senators will have to answer for their positions, one sponsor of the amendment warned.
"People are going to be responsible for this vote," said Sen. Sam Brownback (news, bio, voting record), R-Kan. "We are making progress in America on defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman."
Indeed, the amendment was expected to gain as many as seven new votes from freshman supporters who were not members of the Senate when the amendment was last voted on in 2004.
"There's many of us who have not had an opportunity to debate and discuss this," said one of them, Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla.
The 49-48 vote fell 11 short of the 60 required to send the matter for an up-or-down tally by the full Senate. The amendment's failure was no surprise.
Still, supporters are pleased.
"We're building votes," Sen. David Vitter, R-La., another new supporter, said ahead of the vote. "That's often what's required over several years to get there, particularly to a two-thirds vote."
A majority of Americans define marriage as a union of a man and a woman, as does the amendment, according to a new ABC News poll. But just as many oppose amending the Constitution, the poll found.
Forty-five of the 50 states have acted to define traditional marriage in ways that would ban same-sex marriage — 19 with their own state constitutional amendments and 26 with statutes.
"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 (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., a possible presidential candidate in 2008. He told the Senate on Tuesday he does not support the federal amendment.
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