Two fronts in the culture war

House rejects gay marriage ban; Senate set to pass stem cell research bill.

Published July 18, 2006 7:18PM (EDT)

An Israeli general said today that his country's military campaign against Hezbollah could last for several weeks. As for the war back in the United States? We should be so lucky.

We're talking here about the culture war, of course, and there's action on two fronts today.

The House of Representatives this afternoon voted down a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, just like the Senate did last month and the House did back in 2004. Undeterred, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Republicans would "continue to fight" because the institution of marriage is "under attack by activist judges across the nation." We're not sure which "activist judges" he means; in the past few weeks, judges in New York, Nebraska and Georgia have issued decisions approving prohibitions on gay marriage, and a court in Tennessee cleared the way for a gay marriage ban to get to the ballot in that state.

Meanwhile, the Senate is debating legislation that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The measure is expected to pass later this afternoon, but George W. Bush has drawn a line in the sand: He says he'll veto the bill if it passes -- it would be his first veto as president -- and supporters in the House and the Senate lack the votes necessary to overcome the president's objections. With Nancy Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and a majority of the public in favor of expanding stem cell research, this is the rare wedge issue that could actually help Democratic candidates in November and beyond.

Update: The embryonic stem cell bill passed 63-37, four votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto if Bush follows through on his threat.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2006 Elections Gay Marriage George W. Bush Stem Cells War Room