White House officially calls for ENDA passage

The White House on Monday formally called on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a gay-rights bill the Senate is expected to advance today.

"Workers should not fear being fired from their jobs, harassed at their workplaces, or otherwise denied the chance to earn a living for themselves and their families, simply because of sexual orientation or gender identity," the White House said in its brief Statement of Administration Policy on the bill, S. 815.

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The statement said the bill would establish "lasting and comprehensive Federal protections" against discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace.

"This legislation would, for the first time in this Nation's history, make explicit in Federal law such guarantees, which are consistent with America's core values of fairness and equality," it said. "Passage of this bill is long overdue."

Later today, the Senate will vote to end debate on a motion to proceed to the bill. At least five Republicans are expected to support the bill in this procedural vote, a sign that the votes are there to pass the bill as early as this week.

However, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said the House would not take up the bill later this year, citing possible litigation costs to small businesses.

The Senate started debate on the bill at 2 p.m. today, and as of 3 p.m., no Republican had come to the floor to oppose it. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) opened debate by noting the Senate came within one vote of passing the bill nearly 20 years ago.