Through a procedural vote, the Senate rejects a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, 49-48. That was one vote more than they got last time the Senate voted on the matter, in 2004. But 67 votes, a two-thirds majority, are required to pass a constitutional amendment.
Republican leaders attempted to cut off debate on the measure, but they fell 11 votes shy of the 60 votes needed to do so.
Proponents portrayed the constitutional amendment as a defense of marriage, an institution they see as imperiled by same-sex unions. But opponents called the amendment nothing more than election-year posturing.
The measure would have defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
After the vote, the Senate moved on to another measure that many say has little chance of becoming law: permanent repeal of the estate tax. A vote to cut off that debate is scheduled for Thursday.