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Washington • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., has introduced a measure that would protect states like Utah that want to define marriage as between one woman and one man from any federal efforts to recognize gay marriage.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, seeks to ensure the federal government offers the same deference to the 33 states that ban gay marriages as it does to the 17 that allow them. A federal judge in December ruled that Utah's prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional but that decision was later stayed and is currently on appeal before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"How a state should define marriage should be left up to the citizens of each state," Lee said. "It is clear the Obama administration finds the principles of federalism inconvenient in its effort to force states to redefine the institution of marriage. The State Marriage Defense Act provides an important protection for states, respecting the right to choose for themselves how each will treat the institution of marriage under the law."

Following Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage, including one striking down a federal ban on recognizing such unions, the Justice Department has said that the federal government would treat same-sex marriages as equal to heterosexual marriages.

Cruz said in a statement that President Barack Obama is trying to re-define marriage and undermine states' rights.

"The Obama administration should not be trying to force gay marriage on all 50 states," Cruz said. "We should respect the states, and the definition of marriage should be left to democratically elected legislatures, not dictated from Washington. This bill will safeguard the ability of states to preserve traditional marriage for its residents."

The measure, though, is unlikely to see action in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Lee is the only co-sponsor so far.