WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) - The U.S. House of Representatives July 18 was unable to muster the two-thirds majority to pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
The 236 to 187 vote ended for this year a congressional debate to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but raised the specter of it playing a more prominent position in the mid-term elections in November.
The result was 47 votes short of the two-thirds majority of House members needed to pass the measure, and came six weeks after a U.S. Senate vote fell 11 short of the 60 needed to advance the legislation to a final vote. Like the House, the Senate final vote would have required two-thirds or 67 votes in favor.
The bill (HJ Res 88), referred to as the “Marriage Protection Amendment,” would have added two sentences to the U.S. Constitution: “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any state, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.”
At a June 5 event, President George W. Bush called on for congressional action to pass the Marriage Protection Amendment, and Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali said the vote was "an opportunity which should not be squandered."
Bush said amending the Constitution was the only way to "take this issue out of the hands of over-reaching judges and put it back where it belongs – in the hands of the American people."
Cardinal Rigali and Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley were among religious and civic leaders who attended the event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.
Bush called marriage between a man and a woman the most enduring and important human institution. He noted that 45 states have passed laws or constitutional amendments defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.
In a statement released by his office, Cardinal Rigali said, "Those who would seek to redefine the institution of marriage are asking society to give up something it does not have the right to relinquish. Marriage is given to us by God. It is the sacred union of one man and one woman for the purpose of procreation, part of God's plan for the human race."
He said marriage is not the construction of any particular religion, nor is it a legalism, but part of God's universal law.
"That is why unions that are not between one man and one woman cannot possibly receive the approbation of society, law and culture," the statement said.
Yet, the Traditional Values Coalition urged members of the House to vote against the measure because the group said it does little for marriage and enshrines in the Constitution the right to homosexual civil unions and domestic partnership.
“There is a net loss if this amendment ever becomes law,” said coalition executive director Andrea Lafferty. “Protection of this sort would kill traditional marriage because it trades civil unions for marriage.”
She said that the measure not passing “is a good thing for traditional marriage.”
Noting that 45 states have taken action against same-sex marriage by either constitutional amendment or statute, she said “we need a real amendment which actually protects marriage and bans all the cheap imitations of marriage.”
The last House vote on the issue, just a month before the 2004 election, was 227-186 in favor of the amendment, 49 short of the two-thirds majority needed to advance a constitutional amendment.
Passing an amendment to the Constitution requires the approval of two-thirds of both the House and Senate, as well as ratification by three-quarters of the states. There are 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
- - -
Catholic News Service contributed to this report.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.