WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush said yesterday he was
troubled by gay weddings in San Francisco and by legal decisions in
Massachusetts that could clear the way for same-sex marriage.

He declined to say whether he was more inclined now to back a
constitutional ban. However, he spoke privately with conservative
Catholics about the issue, and a conservative activist who favors
such a ban suggested the president would soon announce his
support.

“I have watched carefully what’s happening in San
Francisco, where licenses were being issued, even though the law
states otherwise,” Bush said at the White House. “I
have consistently stated that I’ll support law to protect
marriage between a man and a woman. Obviously these events are
influencing my decision.”

Bush didn’t answer directly when asked whether he was any
closer to endorsing a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, as
conservative groups say the White House has privately promised.

“I’m watching very carefully. But I’m troubled
by what I’ve seen,” Bush said. “People need to be
involved with this decision. Marriage ought to be defined by the
people, not by the courts.”

One group took issue with Bush’s insistence that
“people,” not the courts, need to resolve the
issue.

“In San Francisco, the democratically elected mayor took
this action just weeks after hundreds of thousands of people voted
for him,” said Jon Davidson, senior counsel of Lambda Legal,
a gay and lesbian legal group.

“It’s the right-wing groups that have taken this
into courts seeking to define marriage in a way that would exclude
same-sex couples, in violation of California’s
constitution,” Davidson said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush recognized that
gay marriage is a divisive topic. But he said, “This is an
issue where he believes it is important for people to stand up on
principle.”

Yesterday, Bush met with 13 Roman Catholic conservatives. They
included Deal Hudson, the publisher of Crisis magazine and a friend
of Bush political adviser Karl Rove; William Donohue, president of
the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; Wall Street
Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for President
Ronald Reagan; and Kathryn Jean Lopez, associate editor of National
Review magazine.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president spoke to
the group about the gay marriage issue and a wide array of other
topics.

Bush reiterated his pledge to back a constitutional amendment
“if necessary,” Duffy said.

Separately, Gary Bauer, a conservative and onetime presidential
candidate, said Rove has assured him Bush will back an
amendment.

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