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Democrats slam Bush on same-sex marriage ban

Critics say president's re-election strategy is to divide nation

Sen. Edward Kennedy said President Bush is
Sen. Edward Kennedy said President Bush is "the first president to try to write discrimination back into the Constitution."

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Watch for live coverage of the results of Tuesday's caucuses in Hawaii and Idaho and the primary in Utah -- and reactions to President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage -- throughout the evening on CNN-USA.
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President Bush calls for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
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America Votes 2004
Democratic Party
Democratic candidates
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top Democrats excoriated President Bush on Tuesday for announcing support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, accusing him of using the issue for political gain and trying to draw attention away from his record.

"Since he can't run on his record of shipping jobs overseas, failing schools and rising health-care costs, he has to change the subject," Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said in a written statement.

"President Bush came to the White House pledging to unite us and is now seeking to divide the country for his own political gain."

Bush said Tuesday that he supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to "prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever." (Full story)

McAuliffe said the Democratic Party would oppose the amendment.

"It is wrong to write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution, and it is shameful to use attacks against gay and lesbian families as an election strategy," he said.

"It appears that the conservative compassion he [Bush] promised to deliver in 2000 has now officially run out."

The party also accused the president of changing his mind, saying he originally said this matter should be left up to the states.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry's campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Bush's support for such an amendment makes it clear that his re-election strategy is to "use wedge issues and the politics of fear to divide the nation."

The senator from Massachusetts has said he supports civil unions and equal protection for gays and lesbians but that he opposes marriage for them. He also said he believes it should be a state issue.

U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts said Bush will "go down in history as the first president to try to write discrimination back into the Constitution."

In a written statement, Kennedy said, "The Constitution is the foundation of our democracy. It reflects the enduring principles of our country. We have amended the Constitution only 17 times. ... [It] has often been amended to expand and protect people's rights, never to take away or restrict their rights."

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