U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that bans discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The measure passed the Senate 64-32 on Thursday.
“Making ENDA law will be the next significant step in the fight for equality for LGBT Americans,” Franken said in a floor speech hours before the vote.
“After decades of struggle, we have achieved a number of huge victories in rapid succession – ending ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’; overturning the federal ban on same-sex marriage recognition; the achievement of marriage equality in more and more states, including my home state of Minnesota.”
The Senate vote is a victory for gay rights advocates, but the excitement has been tempered by political reality: the bill is unlikely to come up for a vote in the Republican-led House. Speaker John Boehner, a staunch opponent of the bill, has argued that the legislation would spark a spate of frivolous lawsuits for businesses.
“The Minnesota experience shows that those fears are unfounded,” Franken said. “There has not been a flood of lawsuits, because the rights of LGBT Minnesotans are widely respected … Minnesota is basically the same as it was before this law passed, expect that it is better because LGBT Minnesotans are free from discrimination at work.”
Current federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin. But it doesn’t stop an employer from firing or refusing to hire workers because they are gay, bisexual or transgender.
The bill passed Thursday would prevent employers with 15 or more workers from using a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for making employment decisions, including job promotions and pay. The military and religious institutions are exempt.