WASHINGTON — A bill to extend historic new protections to gays in the workplace won easy
Seventeen years after a similar proposal failed by a single vote in the Senate, 10
"This is a really tremendous milestone — a day I will never forget in my service in the Senate," said Sen.
Backers of the measure said the bipartisan vote puts additional pressure on Speaker
"Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it," he said.
A spokesman for House Majority Leader
Democrats warned that Republicans would pay a price for inaction. "If the
Such a statement would have been unthinkable only a decade ago, when most Americans opposed same-sex marriage and were skeptical about gay rights. President
Today, as polls show most Americans support same-sex marriage, many Republican lawmakers and candidates see the issue as a trap. Republicans who support gay rights run the risk of alienating conservative voters, particularly
Ari Fleischer, a former Bush spokesman, wrote in an opinion piece published Thursday by
Last November saw the first successful referendums to allow same-sex marriage in four states. Just this week, Illinois lawmakers gave final approval to legislation that would make the state the 15th to allow such unions.
Though 34 Republicans voted against ENDA in the Senate, few spoke out against it during the floor debate. Sen.
The bill includes an exemption for religious groups that was strengthened by a Republican amendment to ensure that the government could not retaliate against those organizations in awarding contracts and grants.
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. In 2007 the House, then controlled by Democrats, passed a version of ENDA that did not include the provision for transgender individuals. Thirty-five Republicans voted for it at the time, though only 10 of those continue to serve in the House today.
One of them, Rep.
"Congressman Ryan does not believe someone should be fired because of their sexual orientation," said Ryan spokesman Kevin Seifert. "That said, any legislation to address this concern should be narrowly crafted to guard against unintended consequences."
House Minority Leader
The Republican senators who supported the current bill include longtime sponsors like
Other GOP backers include three who will be running for reelection in 2016 in battleground states: Sens.
"I have always believed that workplace discrimination — whether based on religion, gender, race, national origin or sexual orientation — is inconsistent with the basic values that America holds dear," McCain said.
But Republicans facing competitive primary challenges from conservative or tea party candidates voted against the measure. With an eye toward 2014 reelection, many are looking to shore up their conservative credentials. Among them was Sen.
Senate Democrats called Graham's bill a nonstarter, predicting that Republican positions on gay rights and