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Washington Beat: Gay Rights Groups Push Senate For Workplace Discrimination Bill

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A federal bill that would ban workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgendered people is poised to come up for an important procedural vote in the Senate on Monday. Gay rights groups are feverishly trying to line up enough Senators to prevent it from dying on the Senate floor, NY1’s Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto reports.

Gay rights groups are feverishly trying to line up enough Senators to keep a bill alive that would ban workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgendered people. The bill is set to come up for a procedural vote in the Senate on Monday.

They believe the momentum is building.

“We think that we're close to the 60 votes that we need,” said Michael Cole-Schwartz of the Human Rights Campaign.

Those 60 votes are needed to prevent a Republican filibuster of a major gay rights bill called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA.

At the moment, it is shy just one vote, with the support of 59 senators, including four Republicans.

The bill would ban workplace discrimination nationwide on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Currently, more than half the states don't offer such a protection.

“There's a patchwork of laws out there. People can be fired, not hired, simply because of who they are, and that's not an American value and it's not good for business,” Cole-Schwartz said.

New York bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, but the law currently in place doesn't explicitly protect transgendered people.

Supporters of the legislation include labor and business, though the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is remaining neutral.

Conservative groups are opposed, even though the bill includes an exemption for religious institutions.

“It would lead to reverse discrimination against perhaps conservative or Christian employees who may verbalize their own private convictions about these issues,” Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council said.

Even if the bill passes the Senate, it faces a major uphill climb in the House, where Republican leadership has given no indication that they will ever bring it to the floor for a vote.

Currently only a handful of House Republicans support the measure.

In New York, Republicans Chris Gibson and Tom Reed, both of whom are facing tough Democratic challengers next year, say they're in favor.
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Gay Rights groups say they will continue lobbying the House until the bill comes up for a vote.

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