Religious groups have joined together to oppose a constitutional gay marriage ban in the US, in anticipation of the Senate debate next week.

Christian and Jewish leaders gathered on Capitol Hill yesterday to lobby senators to reject the legislation which would entrench a gay marriage ban in the US constitution and therefore nullify the law allowing same sex couples to marry in Massachusetts.

Reverend Paul Simmons said the amendment “has the smell and feel of Salem,” and compared its supporters to the colonial Puritans who burned witches.

The Reform Judaism movement’s Rabbi Marla Feldman, said: “The Reform Jewish Movement calls on Senators to oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment when it comes to the Senate floor.

“The Federal Marriage Amendment constitutionally fetters an entire community of Americans, relegating them to second class citizenship.

“Religious institutions have the right to decide which partnerships they will and will not sanctify in their houses of worship. The government, however, should not codify the religious views of some, nor should it deny equal rights to all of its citizens.”

Critics say the law would make existing gay marriages in Massachusetts invalid and possibly block civil unions and domestic partnership laws.

The amendment was introduced by Senator Wayne Allard, it states: “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.”

The amendment law will be decided in a Senate vote on June 6 2006.