Conservative family organizations are downplaying the Republican-run Senate's failure to bring the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) to a vote in July. Many activists say the three days of debate provided a crucial opening salvo on the issue.

Republican leadership could muster only 48 senators to end debate and vote on the resolution, a dozen shy of the 60 necessary votes. Just three Democrats agreed to bring it to a vote (John Kerry and John Edwards skipped the vote). Six Republicans broke ranks.

Nevertheless, the inaction achieved two important goals, according to Alliance for Marriage (AFM) founder Matt Daniels, who crafted the two-sentence FMA. "This gets politicians on the record before the election," Daniels told CT. "Also, it dramatically increased public awareness."

Daniels likened the drive to preserve traditional marriage to the Civil Rights Act, which faced repeated filibusters in the Senate. As with civil rights, Daniels contends traditional marriage will prevail.

Yet Cheryl Jacques, president of Human Rights Campaign, said the FMA vote shows how unimportant the issue is to Americans, who are more concerned about health care costs, troops in Iraq, and retaining jobs.

U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), FMA's chief sponsor, said he plans to continue bringing the amendment before the chamber. U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) introduced identical legislation in the House last year, and debate is expected to take place in early September.

Daniels said if efforts repeatedly fail, Senate leadership is willing to drop the second sentence of the amendment—which places restrictions on state or federal courts expanding marriage definitions—and simply stick with the first: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of ...

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