By David Gregory Chief White House correspondent
NBC News
updated 11/8/2004 7:32:30 PM ET 2004-11-09T00:32:30

President Bush put a ban on gay marriage at the heart of the campaign's values debate, declaring on the campaign trail in Iowa last month, “I believe marriage is a sacred commitment…and I will defend it.”

But last summer the proposed constitutional ban died in Congress when opponents in the senate blocked a vote. Now after Bush’s reelection there is new pressure to try again.

The president knows evangelical Christians played a large role in his victory and exit polls show that 22 percent of voters cited moral values as their most important issue — ahead of the economy or the Iraq war.

Interviewed on Meet the Press, Bush strategist Karl Rove said of those voters, “They saw in him a vision and values and ideas that they supported, and he'll pursue those in office.”

Some conservatives argue this issue is important to the President whether or not he owes it to his political base.

“I believe he wants to see that pass as much as he wants to see tax reform and a strong national defense and many of the other issues that are associated with him,” said Gary Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, a political action committee which supports the ban.

But just how hard will the president fight? White House advisers admit they are still short on the necessary votes in Congress to push the ban again. And even some Republicans question why it's necessary to alter the U.S. Constitution when eleven states successfully passed same sex marriage bans on Election Day.

Though the public remains split about amending the Constitution pressure for a federal ammendment might grow if its not just state courts but federal courts ruling that gay couples are entitled to the benefits of marriage nationwide

And should the president push the ban again — win or lose — he may score points by fighting the fight.

“Religious conservatives know by himself [Bush] can't make it happen but he certainly can exert leadership to help get it along,” says political analyst Ron Faucheux

A political promise over values which the White House will be pushed to keep.

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