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Inside Politics

Amendment might lack congressional support

From Ted Barrett
CNN Washinton Bureau

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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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Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution establishes rules of a two-stage process required to change the document.

Step 1: Two-thirds of the members in the U.S. House of Representatives (290 members) and the U.S. Senate (67 senators) must vote to add or change an amendment, or 2/3 -- 33 -- of the 50 state legislatures must request the change through a Constitutional Convention.

Step 2: Three-fourths, or 38, of the 50 state legislatures must vote to accept the change.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Tuesday he would support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but it is not clear such an amendment would find sufficient backing in Congress.

The Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress to pass an amendment. Then it must be ratified by three-fourths, or 38, of the 50 states.

John Feehery, spokesman for Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert, said it would be difficult for Republican leaders to get the 291 votes required to pass any such amendment. But he implied that it might not matter. (Bush calls for amendment)

"Sometimes you win for losing," he said, noting the issue would draw a clear line between Democrats and Republicans, as well as between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Reaction to Bush's comments)

Feehery also said that not only do many Democrats oppose a ban, but there also is a "diversity of opinion" within the Republican conference.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colorado, has submitted a proposed marriage amendment that is enthusiastically supported by many social conservatives.

But other conservatives oppose revising the Constitution, and many moderate Republicans oppose a ban on same-sex marriage.

"There's a strong possibility" such an amendment could make it to the floor for a vote this year," Feehery said, but probably not until close to the November election.

The House Judiciary Committee does not currently plan to hold hearings on an amendment "anytime soon," a committee aide said Tuesday.

The committee will wait for the Senate to act on the amendment before it even begins to address it, the aide said, adding that because it's considered unlikely to get two-thirds in the Senate, it's "premature to worry about it now."

Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, who co-sponsored the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, considers that law sufficient to address the issue and thinks a constitutional amendment is "awfully strong medicine," the aide said.

Amy Call, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, said the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the matter March 3.

Asked if two-thirds of the Senate would support such an amendment, she replied, "It'll be close."

Bush did not endorse any specific version of an amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

CNN's Steve Turnham contributed to this report.

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