By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A constitutional ban on same-sex marriage failed to pass the Senate on Wednesday but Republican leaders planned to take it up in the House, keeping a national spotlight on the divisive issue.
The 49 to 48 vote basically ensures the measure won't get anywhere in the full Congress, thwarting President Bush and the mostly Republican senators who argued that the Constitution must be amended to prevent judges from striking down existing state bans on gay marriage.
Democrats said the gay-marriage vote, which fell short of the 60 votes needed to end debate, was an attempt to muster conservative support before November congressional elections and divert public attention from more pressing issues like the war in Iraq that reflect poorly on Republicans.
"It is a cynical attempt to score political points by overriding state courts and intruding into individuals' private lives," Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said in floor debate on Tuesday.