The White House has gone into damage control following President George Bush’s suggestion he will stop pushing for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage because too many US senators are against it.

In an interview with The Washington Post this week, Bush said there was no reason to press for the amendment while so many senators remained convinced the Defence Of Marriage Act -“ which says states that outlaw same-sex unions do not have to recognise such marriages conducted outside their borders -“ was sufficient.

Senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen, Bush said. I’d take their admonition seriously -¦ Until that changes, nothing will happen in the Senate.

During his 2004 election campaign Bush voiced strong support for a federal ban on gay marriage, and many political analysts have credited this position for inspiring a record turnout among fundamentalist Christians voters, who had declared war on same-sex marriage.

Worried the president’s new position could infuriate conservative supporters, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said this week Bush was still willing to spend political capital to make the ban happen, but that it would be virtually impossible to secure the 67 votes needed to pass the amendment in the Senate.

In a further bid to reassure voters, the president’s counsellor Dan Bartlett appeared in a TV interview and said Bush was speaking only of political reality in the Senate and that he planned to continue to push for the constitutional amendment.

Winnie Stachelberg, political director of queer rights group Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said the administration’s conflicting comments on the issue were another reminder of the president’s inconsistency.

In November last year Bush announced he did not oppose civil unions for same-sex couples, despite the Republican Party running on a platform explicitly against the idea. When asked about his party’s opposition to civil unions in a TV interview Bush said he disagreed with the policy and believed it was an issue that should be left to the states.

We have seen two faces of George W. Bush in the last several months, and are wondering which one will take the oath of office on Thursday, Stachelberg said of the president’s official inauguration ceremony this week. Our great hope is that George Bush will back up his new-found support for civil unions and respect for all families with his actions.

The HRC ran a TV ad in Washington DC this week outlining Bush’s inconsistencies regarding equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans during his first term.

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