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A majority of Americans oppose amending the U.S. Constitution to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. This news comes on the heels of President Bush's State of the Union address, in which he came dangerously close to endorsing a constitutional amendment. "Americans understand that in our history the Constitution has only been amended to expand our rights and freedoms, not to deny basic protections and responsibilities," said Cheryl Jacques, president of the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign. "The Constitution should never be used to deny fundamental rights like the ability to visit a partner in the hospital or the protection of Social Security survivor benefits, and the American people know that." In Tuesday night's speech the president said, "If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process." Said Jacques: "We remind the president that Americans are definitively opposed to using our nation's most cherished document to discriminate against any American. Furthermore, Americans are concerned about issues like the economy and health care and national security. The president should focus on uniting the country rather than dividing us." The poll shows that 38% of Americans favor a constitutional ban on marriage rights for gays and lesbians, while 58% said the matter should be left to the states. Majorities of Americans are opposed to the amendment in all regions of the country as well. More than half of Americans--56%--also feel that it should not be the role of the federal government to promote marriage between men and women, according to the poll. In addition, 52% of Republicans also oppose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. "Many leading conservatives have spoken out against the Federal Marriage Amendment because it takes family law policy away from the states and allows the federal government to make very personal choices for us," Jacques said. Many conservative leaders and pundits, including former Republican senator Alan Simpson, David Horowitz, William Safire, and even former representative Bob Barr, who wrote the Defense of Marriage Act, have all expressed strong opposition to amending the constitution, calling it "reckless" and "divisive." Two polls in October and November by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found 51% of respondents opposed to such an amendment. However, the poll also found that 55% of Americans think it should be illegal for same-sex couples to get married. Almost that many--51%--were opposed to allowing gay and lesbian couples to form civil unions.