June 3, 2006 Bush to Press for U.S. Ban on Same-Sex Marriage By JIM RUTENBERG WASHINGTON, June 2 â President Bush is beginning a major push for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, part of a new campaign to appease cultural conservatives who say he and his party abandoned their issues after the 2004 elections. Mr. Bush plans to declare strong support for the amendment â scheduled for a vote in the Senate next week â in his radio address on Saturday, and at an event at the White House on Monday with conservative activists and religious leaders, White House officials said Friday. Taken together, the events will be the first time Mr. Bush has so strongly promoted his opposition to same-sex marriage since his re-election campaign nearly two years ago. Democrats accused the White House of trotting out a reliable hot-button issue to help soothe and re-energize disgruntled conservative voters five months before the midterm Congressional elections. "Everybody's going to see through it," said Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. But, in a new twist this year, some conservative activists expressed similar cynicism. They said Mr. Bush and the Republicans in Congress had a long way to go to convince social conservatives that they viewed the issue as anything but a politically convenient tool that they picked up only when they needed to motivate their core voters. After the 2004 campaign, they say, Mr. Bush put his energies into domestic issues like Social Security and immigration rather than into the marriage amendment and other topics of interest to grass-roots conservatives. "It was so central in the 2004 election," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative research group, said of same-sex marriage. "And the day after, the president began a crusade to reform Social Security and it went nowhere. Why not put energy into something that's vital for our society and our country?" Mr. Perkins said he was encouraged by the White House plan to promote the amendment. But he said that as Washington's attention had been focused elsewhere, judges in several states had ruled against state laws banning same-sex marriage, including Georgia and Nebraska. And he and others said they were concerned by other court cases pending in states including New York, New Jersey and Washington. Washington Republicans and so-called values voters, Christian radio stations and Internet blogs have been on fire with discussions of moves by what they call activist judges to destroy the institution of marriage as the immigration debate and developments in Iraq have dominated the mainstream news media. Conservatives expressed still more alarm as Mary Cheney, the vice president's daughter, who is a lesbian, went on national television promoting her book this year and discussed her distaste for the president's opposition to same-sex marriage in 2004. Adding to what conservatives describe as the fuzziness of the White House's position, the president's wife, Laura, said of same-sex marriage last month, "I don't think it should be used as a campaign tool." Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Mrs. Bush added, "It requires a lot of sensitivity just to talk about the issue, a lot of sensitivity." The Senate debate on the marriage amendment is the first in what is expected to be a series of efforts by the White House and its allies to highlight social conservative causes in the run-up to the fall campaign. After having received widespread praise from conservatives for winning confirmation for two new Supreme Court justices last year, the White House has signaled that it intends to nominate another group of conservative federal judges. In addition, Congress is likely to vote on an amendment banning flag burning, and some Republicans hope to find ways to focus attention on efforts to restrict abortion further. There is no assurance that the White House effort to motivate social conservatives will be as effective in the election year as it was in 2002 and 2004. Conservative leaders have grown increasingly disenchanted with the administration's record, and at the grass-roots level Mr. Bush is under fire for his position on immigration. This week White House officials have emphasized that whatever the views of those around the president, his belief that marriage should be between a man and woman has never changed. Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, on Friday batted down suggestions that the president's involvement in the same-sex marriage debate was politically motivated. Rather, he said, with a number of court cases in the works and the Senate's move to vote on the constitutional amendment on Tuesday, the time "is ripe." The vote on the amendment is considered largely symbolic because it is not expected to pass by the required two-thirds majority in Congress, let alone the ratification by three-fourths of the states that a constitutional amendment requires. The amendment would not only define marriage as being between a man and a woman, but would also prevent courts from requiring that states allow civil unions. Opponents say the amendment could prohibit the legal equivalents of marriage, like civil unions; supporters say it would leave that up to states but take away the right of courts to impose civil unions on states that have voted to ban same-sex marriages. "Nobody thinks it's going anywhere," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, saying he believed the move was meant to divert attention from high gasoline prices and Iraq. Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster, agreed that other issues sapping conservative enthusiasm â such as moves to open the way to citizenship for illegal immigrants â would overshadow any progress on gay marriage. But he said those most loudly complaining about the president's conservative agenda would never be appeased. Citing the president's successful nominations to the Supreme Court of John G. Roberts Jr., the new chief justice, and Samuel A. Alito Jr., Mr. Fabrizio said, "I'm trying to think of what he hasn't done for them â talk about fair-weather friends." Phil Burress, who organized the successful campaign against same-sex marriage in Ohio in 2004 that many credit with helping Mr. Bush there, said the president's involvement would call attention to the issue as several states moved on "defense of marriage" initiatives this election year. Mr. Burress said the Senate's amendment was already paying off for a Republican senator in his state, Mike DeWine, who faces a tough re-election fight. Mr. Burress said that he was displeased with Mr. DeWine as being too silent about same-sex marriage, but that his opinion changed when Mr. DeWine co-sponsored the proposed amendment. "It's going to send him back to Washington," Mr. Burress said.