On Monday, the Senate voted to circumvent a filibuster of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban discrimination in the workplace based upon sexual orientation or identity. By a vote of 61-30 the chamber achieved enough support to move the bill towards a vote on final passage, which could come as early as Wednesday.
The bill has been introduced repeatedly since 1994, but has failed to pass every time. Current federal laws prevent workplace discrimination based upon age, color, disability, genetic information, national origin, race, religion and, sex, but no such protections occur for sexual orientation and gender identity.
ENDA passed the Senate with bipartisan support, including a vote from Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk. He spoke on the floor Monday for the first time since suffering a stroke in 2012:
I've risen to speak because I'm so, because I believe so passionately in enacting the ENDA statute, which is, you know this is not a major change to law. I would say it's already the law in 21 states.
Seventeen states also have laws that prevent discrimination based upon gender identity.
But the bill is unlikely to even be brought to a vote in the House, where Republicans believe that laws already in place provide sufficient protections. "The speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small-business jobs," said House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman.
The Human Rights Campaign expressed disappointment that the speaker is against ENDA, with the president of the gay rights organization saying in a statement:
Unfortunately, House leadership appears to be consistently beholden to a tiny minority of anti-LGBT special interests and is already preparing to stand in the way. Americans are tired of partisanship and are looking for some sign that Washington can still get big things done. The Speaker, of all people, should certainly know what it's like to go to work every day afraid of being fired. Instead of letting the far right trample him again, it's time for Speaker Boehner to stand with the majority of everyday Republican voters and support ENDA.
A study from the Public Religion Research Institute found that 73 percent of Americans favor laws protecting gays and lesbians from job discrimination, and 75 percent want Congress to pass such legislation. Fifty-five percent of those approving of such legislative protection are Republican.
What do you think? Should Congress pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act? Take the poll and comment below.
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