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Frist plans June vote on gay marriage

Aides say election-year push for constitutional ban likely to fail

From Ed Henry
CNN

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Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist greets President Bush at a rally in Tennessee earlier this month.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday he plans a vote in early June on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, a move likely to fail but sure to spark a fiery election-year debate.

Frist, a Tennessee Republican, told CNN he's planning the vote for the week of June 5 because he wants to deal with the issue "as early as possible" before the Senate calendar fills up in a busy election year.

Frist said he doesn't know how many votes the ban will receive, but Republican and Democratic aides privately acknowledged the vote will probably fall far short of the 67-vote supermajority needed to advance a constitutional amendment.

When the Senate last voted on the issue in July 2004, a procedural motion to consider the ban received 48 votes -- well short of the number needed to send it on to the House of Representatives and then to all 50 states for ratification.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, charged that Frist is wasting valuable time on the Senate floor in order to rally conservative voters in the midterm elections.

"At a time when we have so many other pressing issues facing the country, I'm not sure where this falls in the list of priorities," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.

Frist has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2008, but a poll taken in December showed him trailing several other possible GOP nominees. (Full story)

Republican supporters of the constitutional ban insist they are not motivated by the politics of the issue and are solely focused on keeping the matter on the national agenda, hoping they can get closer to 67 votes over the next few years.

Achieving that goal, however, has been complicated by the fact that six Republicans -- including Sen. John McCain of Arizona -- voted against the ban in 2004.

President Bush has expressed support for a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

In last month's State of the Union address, he said many Americans are "discouraged by activist courts that try to redefine marriage."

The issue played a prominent role in the 2004 election campaign, with voters in 11 states considering amendments to state constitutions codifying marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. The measures passed in each state.

In 2005, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment banning same-sex marriage. (Full story)

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