WASHINGTON — The gay rights movement won at least a preliminary victory Monday as the Senate voted to advance a measure that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The 61-30 procedural vote does not necessarily predict the final outcome, expected later this week. But statements of support from
"This is a momentous day," Sen.
Even if the Senate passes the legislation, however, it faces uncertain prospects in the Republican-led House. A spokesman for House Speaker
Congress hasn't passed major gay rights legislation since 2010, when it voted to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that barred gays from openly serving in the military. But progress in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights has come elsewhere.
Last summer, the
The Senate bill would prohibit public and private employers, employment agencies and labor unions from using sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for decisions about employment, promotion or compensation. Federal law extends such protections based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age or disability. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia also protect sexual orientation; fewer do so for gender identity.
That "patchwork of state laws excludes tens of millions of Americans from basic protections against discrimination," Senate Majority Leader
A similar bill failed in the Senate in 1996 and had not been taken up on the floor since. In 2007, the then-Democratic-controlled House passed a version that did not include transgender individuals, but the Senate did not take it up.
"I'm dismayed that so many years have gone by, more than a decade, and this bill still has not become law," said Sen.
Seven Republicans ultimately voted with 54 Democrats to advance the measure. Two other backers — Republican
Even as the voting continued on the floor, additional Republican support was secured with intense negotiations in the Senate cloakroom. Sen. Jeff
Amid predictions that the measure would die in the House, supporters said they would marshal public pressure to force action. A spokesman for House Minority Leader
"The speaker, of all people, should certainly know what it's like to go to work every day afraid of being fired,"
President Obama, who called for equal treatment of gays and lesbians in his inaugural address in January, reaffirmed his support Sunday and noted that a majority of Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies for LGBT employees.
"Millions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing that, without any warning, they could lose their jobs — not because of anything they've done, but simply because of who they are," he wrote for the