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The Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution Thursday in opposition to President George W. Bush's proposed amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as a union exclusively between a man and a woman.

Last week's resolution -- initiated by Councilwoman Marian Tasco and co-sponsored by Councilman Frank DiCicco, who are both Democrats -- states that the Constitution has historically been amended only to "extend our rights and benefits as Americans."

Brian Abernathy, a legislative assistant to DiCicco, said it is important to continue that tradition and said that "we want to see the Constitution expand to be more inclusive" and not to limit rights of individuals based on race, religion or sexual preference.

The resolution passed unanimously among the 14 Democrats and three Republican council members the same day that it was introduced.

"We thought it was the right thing to do," Abernathy said.

The resolution is part of a widespread national reaction to the ongoing debate on the legality of same-sex marriage.

An amendment defining a union as only between a male and a female would restrict the rights of gays and lesbians by denying them benefits available to other couples based on their sexual orientation, according to the resolution.

The resolution is part of an effort by the council to leave the issue of marriage to be decided by individual state governments. Bush has encountered significant opposition, notably in San Francisco and other cities and states around the country.

The resolution has no legal force but hopes to influence legislation that is currently being debated in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. For a constitutional amendment to become law, it must pass two-thirds of each congressional bodies and be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

The last constitutional amendment was passed in 1992 and was related to congressional pay increases.

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