The Senate passed a bill on Thursday to ban workplace discrimination against gay people. The bill’s passage showed the United States has undergone a major shift in the past decade in public opinion.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 passed the Senate 64-32 with 10 Republicans joining 52 Democrats and two independents in the “yes” category.
However, Reuters reports that the ENDA faces a tough crowd in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where the bill has less backers.
Critics believe that the legislation is an unwanted federal intrusion in the workplace that would force employers to violate religious beliefs when deciding who they should hire. In contrast, backers say the bill will protect people who want to love whom they choose without fear of losing their job.
President Barack Obama praised the Senate’s decision to pass the ENDA, notes CNN. Obama stated, “Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it.” He went on to encourage the House Republican leadership “to bring this bill to the floor for a vote and send it to my desk so I can sign it into law.”
The ENDA was first introduced in Congress in 1994. A version that protected sexual orientation but not gender identity almost passed the Senate two years later. The first bill to pass either body of Congress gives LGBT workers the same rights already guaranteed on the basis of race, gender, and religion.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) already declared his opposition to the bill, expressing fear that passing the bill would lead to lawsuits that would hurt businesses and cost Americans jobs. However, backers of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act reject concerns about lawsuits, saying that it hasn’t been an issue for states who adopted similar laws in recent years.
While the Senate passed the bill to ban discrimination against gay workers, the House has no plans to bring the bill to a vote.