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Senate Passes Bill To Extend Workplace Protections To Gay, Transgender Employees

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A major gay rights bill passed the Senate with rare bipartisan support Thursday, but it faces an uphill climb in the House. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.

Gay rights advocates have been waiting years for this moment.

By a vote of 64 to 32, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, passed the Senate Thursday afternoon. It got the support of 10 Republicans.

The legislation would ban workplace discrimination nationwide on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"ENDA is about fairness and workplace equality," said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

The bill, however, faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled House. Speaker John Boehner opposes the legislation and has indicated that he will not bring it up for a vote.

Democrats said that House Republicans may want to rethink their strategy.

"They've alienated Hispanics, young people, women, the LGBT community, the rural community," said Sen. Charles Schumer. "Soon, there isn't going to be anybody left."

Perhaps understanding that potential political reality, Republicans were tame in their opposition. During the debate, just one Senate Republican spoke out against the bill. Dan Coats claimed that the religious exemptions were too weak.

"I oppose discrimination of any kind, and that includes discrimination, however, also of individuals or institutions for their faith and values," Coats said.

Nationally, public opinion has rapidly shifted in favor of gays and lesbians. As a result, political observers say that Republicans are now beginning to realize that they need to get in line with the public.

"It's finally reaching that point where you see Republicans getting on board with some of the legislation, as we have in the Senate, that they understand this is an issue that is important to them and their constituents," said Stephen Forssell of George Washington University.

Whether House Republicans agree is the big question as this major gay rights bill lands in their court.

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