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Long-sought protections for LGBT Americans from discrimination in employment took a first step forward today as it was passed through a Senate committee on a bipartisan vote.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, 15 to 7, advancing the bill that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The bill, which does contain religious exemptions, now heads to the full Senate, where it has a solid majority in favor with 53 cosponsors. But a majority doesn't guarantee passage in the Senate since so many bills are now filibustered, requiring 60 votes to break.
A statement from the White House press secretary says that President Obama welcomes the bipartisan approval of the bill.
"The President has long supported an inclusive ENDA, which would enshrine into law strong, lasting and comprehensive protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity," the statement read.
Representatives Jared Polis, a Democrat, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, are leading the campaign to pass ENDA through the Republican-controlled House.
"Our laws must match our values as Americans, which is why it is so critical to provide equal protections for all workers," said Polis said after the Senate approved the bill in committee Wednesday. "That is why I am pleased that the Senate has begun to take steps toward the passage of a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. As the sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the House of Representatives, I am committed to working with President Obama, Senator Merkley, Representative Ros-Lehtinen and my colleagues in the LGBT Equality Caucus to ensure that no American is fired just because of their gender identity or sexual orientation."
Currently 17 states and Washington, D.C., extend such protections for LGBT workers, and another four provide the protections for LGB people.
Correction: This article was corrected to show that the bill does have religious exemptions. The Advocate regrets the error.