An attempt to amend the US constitution to ban gay marriage has failed in a vote by the House of Representatives for the second time in two years.

The vote on Tuesday was 236 for the amendment and 187 against, well short of the 290 votes needed to change the constitution.

The amendment was not expected to pass, especially after the Senate rejected a similar bill six weeks ago. However, Republicans believed the vote would help encourage more conservative supporters for the mid-term elections in November.

The overwhelming majority of the American people support traditional marriage. And the people have a right to know whether their elected representatives agree with them, Republican Marilyn Musgrave said, The Advocate reported.

On the morning before the vote, the White House released a statement urging passage of the bill.

When activist judges insist on redefining the fundamental institution of marriage for their states or potentially for the entire country, the only alternative left to make the people’s voice heard is an amendment of the Constitution, the statement said, echoing recent speeches by President Bush on the matter.

The Democrats argued that such an amendment would enshrine hatred and discrimination into the nation’s founding document.

This bill, to put it simply and bluntly, is about adding discrimination and intolerance to the United States Constitution, James McGovern, a Democrat, said.

Fellow Democrat Barney Frank, who is gay, said, How does the existence of same-sex marriage discourage or retard heterosexual marriage? TheNew York Times reported.

Gay Republican group, Log Cabin Republicans, welcomed the decision.

The US House, having failed once again to codify discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans in the Constitution, should get back to work focusing on winning the war on terrorism, controlling federal spending, and providing economic and tax relief for all American families, president Patrick Guerriero said.

Conservative Republicans said they would try to push through another amendment next year.

In the lead-up to the 2004 elections both the Senate and House of Representatives voted down a similar amendment to ban marriage.

The states have taken matters into their own hands, with 45 banning gay marriage by amending their own constitutions.

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