WASHINGTON — A Senate committee Wednesday morning sent the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — a bill to ban anti-LGBT workplace discrimination — to the Senate floor for possible action this fall with little debate and an unprecedented amount of Republican support.
On a 15-7 vote, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Employment Committee, led by Senator Tom Harkin, approved the bill with support from Sen. Mark Kirk, one of the lead sponsors of the bill, but also with support from Sens. Lisa Murkowski and, by proxy, Orrin Hatch.
Although the ranking Republican member of the committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, said he had three amendments for the legislation, he did not call for a vote on any of them Wednesday.
In announcing the measure, Harkin discussed the fact that the bill — with only sexual orientation protections — was last passed by the committee in 2002, adding, "Today will be the first time we report to the Senate a bill that [includes] sexual orientation and gender identity."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he hopes to bring the bill to the floor for a vote "soon," and Harkin and Kirk told reporters after Wednesday's vote that they were both optimistic that the bill would meet the 60-vote threshold to avoid a filibuster on the floor.