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Washington Beat: Workplace Discrimination Bill Clears Senate Hurdle

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Gay rights groups scored a major victory Monday when a workplace discrimination bill cleared a major procedural hurdle in the Senate. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, had been stalled in the Senate for years, but Monday's procedural vote means the bill will now almost certainly pass out of the upper chamber as early as this week.

"We want to make sure the entire LGBT community is protected then from being fired for no reason other than who they love," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

The effort to prevent a filibuster and move to debate was supported by 61 senators, including seven Republicans. The bill would prohibit workplace discrimination nationwide on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It's a protection that more than half the states don't currently offer, making the bill the most important piece of gay rights legislation to be debated in the Senate since the repeal of Don't Ask don't tell.

"For those that stand up this week and answer the call for courage, I can stay with confidence, your courage will be respected and remembered," said Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

The bill faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House. Speaker John Boehner says he's opposed to the legislation, claiming it will lead to lawsuits.

Conservative groups have gone further, forcing gay Republicans to tell their party to ignore the rhetoric.

"You haven't seen drag queens teaching in public schools, you haven't seen a surge in litigation and a boon for trial lawyers, and you haven't seen religious liberties violated," said Gregory T. Angelo of Log Cabin Republicans.

Publicly, the House bill has only a handful of Republican supporters, including New York members Chris Gibson, Richard Hanna and Tom Reed.

If Boehner refuses to allow debate on the bill, supporters say they may try other tactics to force a vote, especially if enough Republicans in the splintered GOP break with their party and lobby for action.

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