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White House considers constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage

Bush wants to 'codify' definition of marriage

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

President Bush says he wants to
President Bush says he wants to "codify" the idea that marriage should be a union between a man and a woman.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Bush spokesman said Thursday a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is an option being considered at the White House, but the president and his lawyers are waiting for state court rulings to see "what may be needed."

A day after Bush revealed his staff was looking at ways to "codify" his belief that marriage should be limited to unions between a man and a woman, his spokesman noted a constitutional amendment is being "publicly debated" and acknowledged it is something the White House is considering "in this context."

"There are some court cases that are happening, that are still pending," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "There is speculation there may be some decisions soon in places like Massachusetts and New Jersey, so it's a question of what may be needed legally to protect and defend the sanctity of marriage."

McClellan said the president "strongly supports" the Defense of Marriage Act, and suggested there is concern state rulings concerning gay marriage may necessitate updating or amending that law.

The Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton, prevents federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and allows states to ignore same-sex licenses from outside their borders.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said he believes that law is enough.

"The word marriage means only a legal union between one man and one woman, as a husband and wife, and the word spouse refers only to the person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife," said Daschle, reading from the law.

"You can't get any clearer than that. ... No changes are necessary in my view. You've got it in law today," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, has endorsed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The amendment is being pushed by conservative groups and is pending in the House of Representatives.

When he was asked whether the president, in opposing gay marriage, risks alienating the moderate voters he has tried to court, McClellan said the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman is a "principle he will not compromise on."

"He is strongly committed to protecting the sanctity of marriage," McClellan said, "this is an issue that has been raised because of some court cases and we're going to continue to monitor those court cases and the president is strongly committed as a matter of principle to protecting the sanctity of marriage."

Prefacing his views on same-sex marriage Wednesday in the White House Rose Garden, the president cited a biblical warning against being critical of others, said it is "very important for our society to respect each individual," and noted, "I am mindful that we're all sinners."

When asked if Bush considers homosexuality a sin, McClellan responded someone's sexual orientation is "personal business in the president's view."

He added, "The president is not someone who believes in casting stones. He is someone who believes that everybody ought to be treated with continuing respect."

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