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Bush uncertain about gay marriage ban

Says lawyers need to study issue

President Bush:
President Bush: "What I do support is a notion that marriage is between a man and a woman."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday described marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but he stopped short of endorsing a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

"I don't know if it's necessary yet," Bush said of the proposed change, which is gaining steam in GOP circles after a landmark Supreme Court ruling last week. "Let's let the lawyers look at the full ramifications of the recent Supreme Court hearing. What I do support is a notion that marriage is between a man and a woman."

Among supporters of such an amendment is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, who on Sunday said he "absolutely" supports it.

"I very much feel that marriage is a sacrament, and that sacrament should extend and can extend to that legal entity of a union between, what is traditionally in our Western values has been defined, as between a man and a woman. So I would support the amendment," Frist told ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

Frist said sodomy should be addressed by state legislatures, "not in the courts."

A draft of the amendment, which has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, states that "marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

The push for an amendment has gained momentum among Republicans since last week's Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Texas state law barring homosexual sex.

Religious conservatives have sharply criticized the decision, saying it will open the way for gay marriages. Many have cited Justice Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinion, which blasted the high court for signing on "to the so-called homosexual agenda."

"Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children's schools, or as boarders in their home," Scalia wrote. "They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive."

Gay activists have lauded the Supreme Court ruling as one of the most significant in decades.

"This is a giant leap forward to a day where we are no longer branded as criminals," said Ruth Harlow of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund on the day of the court's decision.

Patrick Guerriero, the head of the Log Cabin Republicans, the largest gay GOP organization, said he was pleased Bush did not come out stronger against gay marriage.

Bush, Guerriero added, has "recognized the value of gay and lesbian Americans as part of the American family" since the start of his administration.

"We hope he will use that same language as we head to the 2004 election," he told CNN.

But Genevieve Wood of the conservative Family Research Council predicted a mighty battle between conservatives and gay Republicans.

"I think there's probably going to be a war at the 2004 convention," she said. "The American public now has a wake-up call."

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