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White House Studies Ways to Prevent US Gay Marriages - 2003-07-31

White House lawyers are studying ways to prevent homosexual or lesbian marriage in the United States. Some Republican lawmakers are calling for a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriages.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says Bush administration lawyers are studying a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a Texas law banning gay sex in private.

Mr. McClellan says they are also watching ongoing gay rights cases in the states of Massachusetts and New Jersey to figure out "what would be needed legally to protect and defend the sanctity of marriage."

In a Rose Garden news conference Wednesday, President Bush said he will not compromise his belief that only men and women should marry.

"I believe in the sanctity of marriage," he said. "I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or the other, and we got lawyers looking at the best way to do that."

There is already a law prohibiting federal recognition of gay marriage. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act denies federal Social Security and veterans benefits to same-sex partners. It also absolves states from recognizing gay marriages performed in other states.

Currently, only Vermont recognizes same-sex marriage as a "civil union" eligible for benefits similar to opposite-sex marriage, but only in that state.

June's Supreme Court decision against a Texas sodomy law has renewed calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage, with religious conservatives warning that the ruling paves the way for more states to recognize such unions.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says a consitutional amendment may be necessary if courts require other states to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Mr. McClellan would not say whether President Bush supports such an amendment. He says the president believes someone's sexual orientation is their "personal business" and everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.

Mr. Bush appeared to address some of his more conservative supporters Wednesday, referring to the biblical Sermon on the Mount in calling for tolerance of gay lifestyles.

"I am mindful that we are all sinners, and I caution those who may try to take the speck out of their neighbor's eye when they have got a log in their own," he said. "I think it is very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country."

But Mr. Bush says that tolerance does not mean that he will compromise on the definition of marriage between a man and women which is where he says the issue is headed in Washington.

Public opinion polls show just over half of all Americans oppose gay marriage with a CBS/New York Times poll released Thursday reporting that 55 percent oppose gay marriage and 40 percent support it.