WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- President George W. Bush Wednesday weighed in on the rush for marriage licenses and city hall ceremonies by homosexual couples in San Francisco, saying he was "troubled" and was watching the situation closely.
Bush, a strong supporter of limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, warned again that he would support a constitutional amendment to protect and defend that institution, but declined to say whether that time had yet arrived.
"I am deeply troubled by activist judges who are defining marriage," Bush said before holding talks with Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. "I have watched carefully what's happened in San Francisco, where licenses were being issued even though the law states otherwise. ...
"Obviously, these events are influencing my decision."
San Francisco city officials began issuing legal marriage licenses to homosexual couples last week. Nearly 3,000 of the documents have been issued, and many of the couples quickly took advantage of free City Hall nuptial ceremonies.
On Tuesday alone, more than 170 same-sex couples tied the knot.
The San Francisco nuptial rush was the latest victory for homosexuals seeking formal, legally recognized marriages instead of civil unions.
Massachusetts' high court last year ruled in favor of same-sex unions and recently clarified that it meant marriage, not just civil unions.
Vermont is the only state that recognizes same-sex civil unions. More than 35 states have laws barring legal recognition.
In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act. It allows states to decline to recognize another state's same-sex marriages. It also defines marriage in a traditional sense, restricting federal marriage benefits -- such a pensions -- to surviving spouses of male-female marriages.
A proposed constitutional amendment to enshrine traditional marriage is under consideration in the House of Representatives.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday Bush believes in respecting the rights of others, but the sanctity of traditional marriage had to be upheld.
Bush believes heterosexual marriage is the "fundamental, enduring institution of our society," he said.