Senate Republicans plan to force Democrats to choose sides on same-sex marriage by scheduling a vote on a constitutional amendment in mid-July.

The vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment, which bans same-sex marriage, would take place just as the Democratic Party prepares to begin its presidential nominating convention in Boston, reports Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper.

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., the Republican Conference chairman, told the paper GOP leaders are not ready to announce a specific date, but confirmed they want a July vote.

“We are sort of running the traps on this right now and sort of seeing what kind of response we are getting,” Santorum said yesterday after a Republican policy lunch. “We are talking about it. I think there are a couple of meetings to be had yet before any official announcement is made.”

Republican activist Gary Bauer, a former GOP presidential candidate, said in an e-mail dispatch yesterday a vote has been scheduled for July 15.

“We have one month to flood congressional offices with phone calls, letters and e-mails,” said Bauer, president of Virginia-based American Values.

The enactment of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts last month strengthened the resolve of traditional marriage defenders to pass an amendment.

The Massachusetts high court decided Nov. 18 homosexual couples are legally entitled to wed under the state constitution and should be allowed to apply for marriage licenses, overturning a ruling by a lower court in May 2002.

A leading proponent of traditional marriage, Dr. James Dobson, said the silver lining in developments in Massachusetts last month is that millions of Americans might finally be ready to say, “Enough is enough.”

“It has never been clearer,” Dobson said, “that the [amendment] is our last, best chance to preserve marriage for future generations.”

Last month, Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which specializes in constitutional law, testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, urging members to approve House Joint Resolution 56, which affirms in law marriage as an institution between one man and one woman.

He told members of the subcommittee hundreds of thousands of Americans had signed his group’s “Petition to Preserve Marriage,” which urges Congress to pass the amendment without delay.

In its testimony, the ACLJ contended the amendment “serves to resolve the uncertainties that have been artificially interjected into what would otherwise be fairly described as an entirely and clearly settled question of law.”

The Federal Marriage Amendment says, “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union between a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”

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