Senate panel approves bill banning LGBT discrimination at work

A Senate panel approved legislation Wednesday in a bipartisan 15-7 vote that would outlaw discrimination in the workplace based on an employee’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

Three Republicans joined 12 Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in approving the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

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The GOP votes came from Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchMedicare trust fund running out of money fast Long past time to fix evidence-sharing across borders Overnight Tech: Facebook's Sandberg comes to Washington | Senate faces new surveillance fight | Warren enters privacy debate MORE (Utah), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiKerry visits Arctic Circle to see climate impacts Senate panel clears EPA spending bill, blocking rules Momentum slows for major energy bill MORE (Alaska), and Mark KirkMark KirkDuckworth settles retaliation lawsuit The Trail 2016: Berning embers Senate Dems link court fight to Congressional Baseball Game MORE (Ill.). Hatch voted aye by proxy.

The legislation would outlaw any kind of discrimination based on sexual orientation including both hiring and firing and other employment related matters like salaries and terms of employment.

Federal law currently outlaws employment discrimination centered on age, disability, national origin, race, religion or sex but not gender identity or sexual orientation. ENDA aims to fill the hole in states in the 33 states where there is no separate law against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

The vote came swiftly Wednesday morning just as the committee gaveled into session. Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinDo candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? The Hill's 12:30 Report Mark Mellman: Parsing the primary processes MORE (D-Iowa), the chairman of the committee, said this would be the first time the committee would report to the full Senate a bill that “prohibits discrimination based on sexual discrimination and gender orientation.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidHispanic Caucus PAC looks to flex its muscles in 2016 Say NO to PROMESA, say NO to Washington overreach Overnight Finance: Wall Street awaits Brexit result | Clinton touts biz support | New threat to Puerto Rico bill? | Dodd, Frank hit back MORE (D-Nev.) said he expected to hold a floor vote on the bill "soon." 

Despite the committee vote, it is unclear whether the legislation could gain the 60 votes necessary to surpass a Senate filibuster. The bill has not had a vote in the House or Senate floor since 2007, despite being reintroduced in multiple Congresses.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderBipartisan gun measure survives test vote Overnight Healthcare: GOP plan marks new phase in ObamaCare fight Stoddard: The great Trump rebellion MORE (R-Tenn.) promised to introduce three amendments to the ENDA bill when it hits the Senate floor. According to his office, Alexander thinks the bill needs to give more guidance to employers.

One amendment says that an employer is not required to alter existing bathroom facilities. The amendment also lets an employer assign an employee transitioning from one gender to another to either a men's or women's bathroom or a shared bathroom as long as the assignment is meant to be as least disruptive to the office place as possible.

The second amendment defines an employee that is "transitioning" from one gender to a different one. The bill offers rights for individuals transitioning but does not definite when an employee is transitioning.

The third amendment strikes a provision in ENDA that allows sexual discrimination lawsuits to proceed even when the employer proved a legitimate reason for an action and proven that action would have been taken regardless of gender.

This story was updated at 16:39 p.m.

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