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Senate Votes 64-32 to Approve ENDA LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill

(Photo: Bobosh T./Flickr Creative Commons)

(Photo: Bobosh T./Flickr Creative Commons)

The US Senate voted on Thursday to approve landmark civil rights legislation that would outlaw workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals.

MSNBC reports the Senate voted 64-32 in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which was first introduced in the upper house of the legislature by the late Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy in 1994.

“Today is an historic day,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) said following the Senate vote. “In 1964, we passed the Civil Rights Act… and then in 1990, we passed the Americans With Disabilities Act… And now we sort of finished the trilogy.”

While it is already illegal to discriminate in the US workplace on the basis of gender, race, religion, nationality, age or disability, there is no federal statute against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Twenty-nine states have no laws protecting LGBT workers.

In 2007, the House of Representatives passed a version of ENDA that excluded protection for transgender workers.

This time around, the Republican-controlled House seems unlikely to bring ENDA up for a vote, with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) stating he opposes the measure because it “will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) called on House Republicans to “let the bells of freedom ring.”

“We have fought to capture that vision of equality, and liberty, and opportunity, and fairness embedded in our founding documents, in our founding vision,” Merkley said. “We’ve taken a huge stride today in that direction.”

Ten Senate Republicans joined the 52 Democrat and two independent senators who voted in favor of ENDA. The Huffington Post has identified the 10 Republicans as: co-sponsors Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinios, along with Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), John McCain (Arizona), Jeff Flake (Arizona), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Dean Heller (Nevada), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania) and Rob Portman (Ohio). Portman made headlines earlier this year when he came out in support of LGBT marriage equality two years after learning that his son is gay.

Without House approval of ENDA, Thursday’s Senate vote was largely symbolic. But advocates assert there is value in the Senate’s action.

“It’s hugely helpful as far as public education goes, since 90 percent of Americans think it’s already law,” Heather Cronk, co-director of the advocacy group GetEqual told MSNBC.

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