The US Senate on Thursday approved a bill by a vote of 64 to 32 outlawing workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) [text] outlaws workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The ENDA expands upon the Civil Rights Act of 1964's Title VII [text] protections, which make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, nationality, religion, age or disability. Religiously affiliated employers are exempt from the bill by a provision that the Senate approved by an overwhelming vote. The vote [NBC report] marks the first time in history that the Senate has passed the ENDA after Monday's vote [JURIST report] in the Senate approving the bill to move forward. In 2007 the House passed a version of the ENDA that did not include protections for transgender individuals. The current bill has not been scheduled for any action in the House. President Barack Obama has voiced his support for the bill.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has recently been a controversial issue in the US. The US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) [official website] in July approved a version [JURIST report] of ENDA. HELP held a hearing [JURIST report] in June 2012 regarding ENDA, focusing on discrimination faced by LGBT employees across the country. Earlier in June 2012 JURIST Guest Columnist Brynne Madway argued [JURIST op-ed] that the LGBT community must shift some of its focus to promoting anti-discrimination laws, noting that only a small number of states have nondiscrimination laws that include gender identity and sexual orientation. In January the Virginia Senate initially approved legislation [JURIST report] that would prohibit the state government from discriminating against its employees based on sexual orientation.