President Bush wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit gay marriage. Senators are expected to begin debate on the proposed amendment in the coming week.
President Bush says marriage is the most enduring and important human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by all religions.
"Ages of experience have taught us that the commitment of a husband and a wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society," said Mr. Bush. "Marriage cannot be cut off from its cultural, religious and natural roots, without weakening this good influence on society."
By recognizing and protecting marriage, President Bush says, government serves the interests of all. So, he wants Congress to approve a constitutional amendment banning homosexual or lesbian marriage.
Amending the U.S. Constitution requires approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate and three-fourths of the 50 state legislatures. Lawmakers say the amendment is unlikely to pass.
Opposition to gay marriage has been a mobilizing force for social conservatives, who generally support the president's Republican Party. Mr. Bush backed the amendment before his 2004 re-election, and won in every state where there were similar initiatives on the ballot.
Critics accuse the Bush administration of raising the issue again now to energize conservative voters ahead of congressional elections in November.
President Bush says there is a broad consensus in America to protect traditional marriage, as 45 of the 50 states now define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
So why amend the Constitution?
Because, the president says, judges in some states have overturned laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
"This national question requires a national solution, and on an issue of such profound importance, that solution should come from the people, not the courts," he added.
In a U.S. public opinion poll last month, 58 percent of those questioned said same-sex unions should not be accorded the same rights as marriage between a man and a woman. Roughly 39 percent said they should be recognized by law as equally valid.
But the Gallup poll showed less support for resolving the dispute constitutionally, with 50 percent backing an amendment and 47 percent opposing such a move.
As the debate moves forward, President Bush says, all Americans deserve to be treated with tolerance, respect, and dignity.
President Bush Monday meets with religious and community leaders as well as constitutional scholars to discuss the proposed amendment.