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Bill to ban workplace ‘discrimination’ against gays, bisexuals, transgenders passes key Senate vote

Ben Johnson
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WASHINGTON, D.C., November 4, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A bill that would make it a federal crime to “discriminate” against homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender people – including forbidding men to use the women's restroom or locker room – passed a key vote in the Senate today.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed a test vote by 61-30, a critical margin that will allow the controversial bill to overcome any potential filibuster. Senate rules require 60 votes to cut off debate. The vote means the bill will almost certainly pass the full Senate without delay.

Opponents say the bill (S. 815) would deny traditional religious business owners the right to practice their religion. Its religious exemption is excessively narrow, according to a letter from the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops.

The Family Research Council warns, “Christian bookstores, religious publishing houses, and religious television and radio stations could all be forced to compromise their principles in mandated hiring practices.” FRC President Tony Perkins said the bill would give disgruntled employees a reason to sue employers, who may have never known the employee's sexual preference.

Its present incarnation also protects “transgender” people from “discrimination.” This would allow a biological male who self-identifies as a female to use the company's women's restroom or locker room.

The Democrat-controlled chamber passed the measure with the assistance of seven Republicans: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Pat Toomey of Pennylvania.

Hatch opposed the bill in 1996. Hatch and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska helped Democrats vote the bill out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee earlier this year.

Kirk, in his first Senate speech since having a stroke, likened himself to Abraham Lincoln for backing ENDA.

Eight Republicans – including Murkowski – and one Democrat, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, did not vote on the bill's final passage.

ENDA has been voted down numerous times since it was first introduced in 1994. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, said the day the bill failed in the Senate in 1996 “was a dark day,” but “this is a momentous day.”

Yet it seems to have little chance of passing the Republican-controlled House. Hours before the vote, House Speaker John Boehner said the bill was not on his agenda. Spokesman Michael Steel said Boehner “believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.” The bill applies to all companies that employ 15 people or more, including a substantial percentage of small stores.

Critics say similar bills have led to costly legislation nationwide. For example, American Eagle Outfitters agreed to hire transgender employees "to avoid further expense and the distraction of a prolonged argument" in April 2010 after Attorney General Andrew Cuomo opened an investigation under New York state's Human Rights Law.

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But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose district includes San Francisco, said, “Ending discrimination is what we are all about as Americans, and we should not have discrimination in the workplace because of gender identity.”

President Obama urged Congress to pass the bill Sunday, taking the unusual tactic of writing a blog on The Huffington Post.

“Passing ENDA would build on the progress we've made in recent years,” he wrote. He cited such examples as Supreme Court decisions allowing states to redefine marriage, allowing open homosexuals to serve in the military, signing a hate crimes law passed in the name of Matthew Shepherd (whose story of gay martyrdom has been called a lie), and allowing HIV-positive travelers to visit the United States.

“When Congress passes it, I will sign it into law, and our nation will be fairer and stronger for generations to come,” Obama said.

"We are confident that the U.S. House of Representatives will ultimately reject ENDA,” Perkins said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney did not answer a question about whether President Obama would issue an executive order on the subject if Congress rejects his favored legislation, again.

 See how senators voted here.

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