The US Senate has been applauded for rejecting a constitutional gay marriage ban yesterday.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) praised the legislators for rejecting the discriminatory proposal, which would have defined marriage between a man and a woman in the Constitution, effectively nullifying existing US gay marriages and the chance of any future unions.

By a vote 49 to 48, the Senate failed, for the second time, to garner the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture, a procedural move that would limit floor discussion and bring the measure to a vote.

“The failure to close debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment is a clear sign that Congress is not bending to the will of the president,” said Caroline Fredrickson, the director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

“The Bush administration’s transparent and desperate appeal to its conservative base is both shameless and shameful. Though President Bush seems intolerant of gay and lesbian Americans and their families, we must be vigorous and generous in countering his message with one of tolerance and equality. Using one group of Americans as a divisive political ploy is disgraceful.”

The last time the Senate voted on the amendment was in 2004, when it failed to cut off debate by a vote of 48-50. This year, as in the past, the amendment not only failed to pick up enough votes to cut off debate, it failed even to pick up the votes of a majority of the Senate and it fell far short of the two-thirds vote necessary to approve a constitutional amendment.

“The fact that proponents of the amendment could not even rouse a simple majority on a procedural vote is good news,” said Legislative Counsel Christopher Anders.

“In a Senate with four more Republicans than during the last vote in 2004, supporters of the Federal Marriage Amendment picked up only one vote. At this pace, advocates of the amendment will not be able to reach a two-thirds majority until at least 2042. It’s time for President Bush to pull the plug on this discriminatory amendment.”

Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter is a lesbian, has long said he believes the personal relationships of gays and lesbians should not be a political issue. Earlier this year, First Lady Laura Bush said she felt it was a mistake to make gay marriage a political issue.

Mr Bush voiced support for the amendment earlier this week, although sources claim he was just fulfilling political obligations, “Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them,” he said.

“And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure.”

Liam Curran, the Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Right’s International Officer, praised the decision, he told PinkNews.co.uk: “This is a timely show of good sense from the Senate, shining a light on the bitter and twisted prejudices of George W Bush and his Republican followers.

“It is telling that there has been hardly any movement since the last vote, defeated by Democrats in 2004. America’s LGBT community can feel reassured that while the White House champions discrimination and promotes hatred, there is a place where LGBT life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness mean something, the Senate.”