WASHINGTON -- A Senate committee approved a bill Wednesday prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, just two weeks after the Supreme Court handed down rulings expanding protections for married same-sex couples.
"Such discrimination is wrong and cannot be tolerated," said Sen.
Under federal law, employers currently cannot discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age or disability. Though some states have passed laws to fill in the gap, others still lack such protections.
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 16 states have provisions for gender identity, according to a June report by the Movement Advancement Project, Center for American Progress and
When introducing the bill, Sen.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the vote was "huge," and the farthest that the bill, first introduced in 1994, has advanced in
"It's mostly because of people coming out to their families, reporters and churches," Keisling said. "Everybody knows a gay person now, and more and more people know a trans person. It's an issue that 20 years from now, opponents are going to be ashamed to have opposed."
It is not clear whether GOP leaders in the House will consider the bill, though the act's exemption for religious employers may help sway undecided senators, said Tico Almeida of the Freedom to Work advocacy group.
Senate Majority Leader