The proposed gay marriage ban was defeated in the US House of Representatives on Thursday following a vote on amending the constitution.

A two-thirds majority was needed to pass the amendment, which was pushed by President George Bush’s Republican Party. It failed by 49 votes.

In July the Senate also voted against amending the constitution with the proposal failing to get even a simple majority.

Republicans predict the two setbacks will help highlight the issue of gay marriage in the presidential election next month.

The American people need to know where their representatives stand, said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, who promised to bring the proposal back for a vote next year. It’ll be part of the debate in the election.

Gay group the National Stonewall Democrats praised the defeat of the anti-marriage amendment and slammed the Republicans for trying to make it an election issue.

Republican leaders have shamelessly admitted that they pushed this amendment so that they could create a wedge issue to benefit their candidates in this election, said Dave Noble, NSD’s executive director. The only institution that this amendment is designed to protect is the Republican Party.

While this amendment maintains drastic and practical implications, at its core it is little more than a political prank.

Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he’s delighted the amendment failed. The only reason for this vote is to give the Christian Coalition and similar groups another line item on their biased ‘voter guides’.

Polls show most Americans oppose gay marriage but are split on whether a constitutional amendment is needed. Surveys also find voters consider many other issues far more important.

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