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Senate OKs gay rights bill banning workplace discrimination

  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., center, the Senate’s first openly gay member, is surrounded by fellow Democrats just before a historic vote on legislation outlawing workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. From left are, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill., Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Baldwin, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Senate passage of the bill is a major victory for gay rights advocates in a momentous year that included the Supreme Court’s affirmation of gay marriage and the granting of federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. The enthusiasm of the bill's supporters was tempered by the reality that the Republican-led House, where conservatives have a firm grip on the agenda, is unlikely to even vote on it. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON — Reflecting Americans' increasing acceptance of gays, the Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would bar workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Gay rights advocates hailed the bipartisan, 64-32 vote as a historic step although it could prove short-lived. A foe of the bill, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has signaled that the Republican-led House is unlikely to even vote. Senate proponents were looking for a way around that obstacle.

Seventeen years after a similar anti-discrimination measure failed by one vote, 54 members of the Senate Democratic majority and 10 Republicans voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It is the first major gay rights bill since Congress repealed the ban on gays serving openly in the military three years ago.

"All Americans deserve a fair opportunity to pursue the American dream," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a chief sponsor of the bill.

Proponents cast the effort as Congress following the lead of business and localities as some 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 22 states have outlawed employment discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

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