WASHINGTON -- A gay rights bill appears set to overcome a key Senate hurdle Monday, after a fifth Republican expressed support for the measure to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Senate will hold a procedural vote Monday night on what will be the first major gay rights bill debated in
Under current federal law, employers cannot discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age or disability. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia extend that prohibition to sexual orientation, while 16 states and the District of Columbia include gender identity.
A similar bill failed to pass the Senate in 1996. None have been taken up on the floor since. In 2007, the Democratic-controlled House passed a version of the bill that did not include the provision for transgender individuals.
It appears unlikely now that a House with a Republican majority would act to follow the Senate. A spokesman for House Speaker
"The Speaker, of all people, should certainly know what it's like to go to work every day afraid of being fired,"
"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 Huffington Post. "It's offensive. It's wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense."