10 Republicans vote to end ENDA debate

Ten Republicans voted with Democrats Thursday to end debate on a bill aimed at ending employment discrimination against the LGBT community.

Final passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is expected around 2 p.m. Thursday.

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Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Dean Heller (Nev.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), John McCain (Ariz.), Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) joined Democrats in voting 64-34 to end debate on the bill, which bans workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Sixty votes were needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.

The lead sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), said the bill was an issue of fairness and equality because it is legal in nearly half the states to fire someone based on sexual orientation.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) was the only senator to speak in opposition to the bill after nearly one week of debate, highlighting the changing attitude across the country on gay rights.

“I feel it's vital for this body to stand up for our country's longstanding right to the freedom of religion and speech," Coats said. "For these reasons, I am not able to support this current legislation."

President Obama said he’d sign the legislation into law if it reached his desk, but it seems unlikely that the House will take up the measure.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday said he is opposed to ENDA because it could increase “frivolous” lawsuits.

Because the Senate is expected to pass the bill with bipartisan support, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Boehner should allow a vote.

"I hope Speaker Boehner will reconsider his decision not to bring ENDA up for a vote," Reid said Thursday. "I can’t understand what is going on in the House of Representative. Legislation people want is being held up over there."

ENDA was first proposed in 1994 and passed the House in 2007 but fell one vote short in the Senate that year. 

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