A landmark gay rights bill advanced in the Senate on Monday evening, clearing the way for the legislature to discuss the issue for the first time since 1996.
The bill, which would prohibit workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians, is called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. The Obama Administration encouraged Contress to pass the bill, which expands current civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
While the bill could pass in the Senate, USA Today reports that it’s unlikely the House will even take a vote on it. This is because House Speaker John Boehner (R-OJ), opposes the bill.
Boehner press secretary Michael Steel commented, “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”
The current bill passed the Senate 61-30 with the help of two Republicans who gave their support after meeting with Democratic leaders in the GOP cloakroom. Republicans Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska all voted for it in committee in July, where it passed by a vote of 15-7, notes NBC News.
Kirk also spoke about the gay rights bill on the Senate floor Monday, his first time speaking there since his stroke in January 2012. The Republican Senator, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, commented, “I’ve been silent for two years due to a stroke — a little under two years ago.” But, he explained that he was speaking “because I believe so passionately in enacting the ENDA statute.”
No senators spoke on the floor opposing the bill on Monday. It is expected to be passed in the Senate, though it may not make it to the House for any votes. However, the bill is still open to amendment and social conservative groups are hoping to strengthen provisions that exempt religious schools and organizations from the law.
Catholic bishops are also opposed to the law. In a letter to the Senate, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged, “No one should be an object of scorn, hatred, or violence for any reason, including his or her sexual inclinations.” However, the conference explained that the definition of “sexual orientation” is too vague and the bill would legitimize gay marriage.
Do you think the Senate is right to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prevent discrimination toward LGBT persons?
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