Gay marriages fail to get US blessing

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The Us House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly against same-sex marriages, opening the way for a Bill which President Bill Clinton has promised to sign into law, to the outrage of some of his gay supporters.

The Defence of Marriage Act would ban central government recognition of marriages between homosexuals and deny them access to benefits available to heterosexual couples.

"America is not ready to change its definition of marriage," said the Bill's author, Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia. "America will not be the first country in the world that throws the concept of marriage out of the window and says that homosexual marriages are as important as, and rise to the legal and moral equivalency of, heterosexual marriage."

One of only 67 House members to disagree - 342 having voted in favour of the Bill - was Pat Schroeder, a Democrat from Colorado. Describing the Bill as an "absolute outrage" she said: "If you think there isn't enough hate and polarisation in America you're going to love this Bill."

It appears the Bill will pass the Senate, where it has bipartisan support, and arrive at Mr Clinton's desk for his signature. The President's position has been ambiguous, designed to maximise his appeal among conservatives while minimising the damage among a gay constituency which traditionally votes Democrat.