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Senate passes LGBT anti-employment discrimination bill

Nineteen years after it was first introduced, a bill to prohibit workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender employees has regained momentum in Washington. The bill, titled the Employment Nondiscrimination Act or ENDA, passed the Senate by a comfortable margin on Nov. 7.

State and federal employment law protects workers from being fired or otherwise discriminated against on the job based on things like their race, gender or religion. However, though many states have included homophobic actions by employers in their anti-employment discrimination prohibitions, federal law currently has no such provision.

Lawmakers introduced ENDA in 1994 to try to close that loophole. The bill did not pass, and in 1996 a pared-down version was introduced in the Senate. That version did not mention discrimination based on gender identity. It had more support, but still failed to pass by one vote.

After that, Congress did not revisit the issue until 2007, when the House passed a similar bill, but it failed to pass the Senate.

By 2009, Sen. Jeff Merkley had taken the lead on getting ENDA passed. One of his strategies was to garner bipartisan support. He eventually got Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican who was in the House at the time, to co-sponsor the bill. They convinced several other Republican senators, including Sens. John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Orrin Hatch, to vote for ENDA as well.

Thus, when ENDA came up for a vote on Nov. 7, the Senate passed it by a 64-32 vote, with a total of 10 Republicans voting in favor.

The bill still must pass the House, and it may be difficult for supporters to even bring it to a vote there. A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner said that Boehner opposes anti-discrimination protection for the LGBT community, saying it will “cost American jobs.”

We will keep an eye on ENDA’s status and keep readers updated if there are any changes.

Source: CNN, “Senate passes LGBT anti-discrimination bill,” Leigh Ann Caldwell, Nov. 8, 2013

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