US President George W. Bush has made clear his contempt for human rights and same-sex families in a speech supporting a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

In a move that, according to opponents, reflects his administration’s attempts to deflect attention from growing public discontent with its policies, Bush said that he was “protecting the institution of marriage.”

In the nationally televised 10 minute speech the President, surrounded by conservative supporters of The Defense of Marriage Act, said that he had been left with no choice but to champion the bill. “You are here because you strongly support a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman, and I am proud to stand with you,” he declared.

Referring to legal moves in a number of states across the US to legalise same-sex unions, he said that “Marriage is the most fundamental right in our society and it should not be defined by activist judges”. He added that “A constitutional amendment is the most democratic method by which our country can resolve this issue”.

“Surrounded by a group of extremists, President Bush showed today how enormously out of touch this administration is with the rest of America,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Discrimination never belongs in the Constitution. At a time when hard-working Americans are losing sons and daughters in Iraq, struggling to afford health care for their families and worrying about being able to fill their tanks with gas, the discriminatory attack on the U.S. Constitution and American families is shameful politicking”, he said.

This is the second speech in two days by the President in which he has declared his support for the constitutional amendment.

Debate on the bill, which aims to entrench the definition of marriage as being only between a man and woman in the US constitution, began on Monday in the Senate. It is not expected to garner sufficient votes to be passed.

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