Senate Debates Definition of Marriage

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The controversy may spill over into election-year politics anyway.

Calls for and against an amendment banning same sex marriage poured into Senate offices Monday as senators debated the controversial issue on the Senate floor. Supporters of the amendment argued that rulings by a handful of activist judges in states like Massachusetts make such an amendment necessary.

One prominent lawmaker predicted that allowing same sex marriage would deal a death blow to the American culture.

"You say what's the big deal? What's the problem if that happens? I think the problem is, if you look at communities where marriage has broken down you see communities that are not functioning very well," said Sen. Rick Santorum, a Republican from Pennsylvania.

Opponents of the amendment accused its supporters of using the issue as a political pawn, a way to force lawmakers to weigh in on the hot button topic.

"This is a waste of time. The votes are not present to submit this amendment to the states and the timing is just before the election," said Sen. Diane Feinstein, Democrat of California.

President Bush has made his support of a constitutional amendment well-known, his own position to fall in line with Mr. Bush.

Sunday, Lynne Cheney made it clear she does not agree with her husband's stance.

"People should be free to enter into their relationships that they choose, and secondly, to recognize what's been historically the situation, that when it comes to conferring legal status on relationships, that is a matter left to the states," said Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney. The Cheneys' daughter is gay.

The issue could come up for vote as early as Wednesday, but even supporters admit they likely don't have the two thirds needed to pass.