US Senate passes 'Enda' gay rights bill

Democratic members of the US Senate appeared in Washington DC prior to a vote to pass Enda on 7 November 2013 Senator Tammy Baldwin (centre), the chamber's first openly gay member, and fellow Democrats drove passage of the bill

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A bill banning workplace discrimination against gay and transgender people has passed the US Senate with significant cross-party support.

The Senate voted 64-32 to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, with 10 Republicans voting in favour.

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, called the bill an "important step" to "help end injustice".

But its future in the Republican-led House remains unclear, as Speaker John Boehner has voiced his opposition.

'Overwhelming support'

"Just as no one in the United States can lose their job simply because of their race, gender, religion or a disability, no one should ever lose their job simply because of who they are or who they love," Mr Obama wrote in a statement following the Senate's vote.

Mr Obama urged the House of Representatives to pass the bill, saying it had "the overwhelming support of the American people, including a majority of Republican voters, as well as many corporations, small businesses and faith communities".

"One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do," he added, addressing House Republicans.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner opposes the bill, arguing it could lead to lawsuits and hinder job creation.

The legislation bars employers with 15 or more workers from making employment decisions - hiring, firing or compensation - based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill's passage in the Senate comes three years after Congress lifted the ban on gays serving openly in the US military, and months after the US Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

This week, the Illinois legislature passed a bill recognising same-sex marriage. If, as expected, the bill is signed into law, Illinois will become the 15th US state to legalise gay unions.

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