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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. House Votes Down Gay Unions

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation that would invalidate gay marriages under federal law, even if individual states sanction them.


The "Defense of Marriage Act" was approved Friday on a 342-67 vote. Two members voted "present," in effect abstaining. The Senate is expected to follow the House's lead and approve the bill. President Bill Clinton has said he would sign it.


The bill was rushed through the House this year even though no states currently permit same-sex marriages. Pending court action in Hawaii could allow them but is unlikely to be resolved for several years.


The legislation would define marriage as being between one man and one woman and defining "spouse'' only as a person of the opposite sex. The bill would continue the federal practice of making same-sex couples ineligible for spousal benefits under Social Security, Medicare and other federal programs.


Wisconsin Representative Steve Gunderson, one of three openly gay members of Congress, spoke in personal terms. "Why shouldn't my partner of 13 years be entitled to the same health insurance and survivor benefits that some of my colleagues around here with second and third wives are able to give them?'' he asked.


Gunderson did not name names, but Georgia Representative Bob Barr, prime sponsor of the marriage bill, is in his third marriage.