Gay-rights employment bill clears Senate hurdle

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., at a 2011 news conference on Capitol Hill. On Monday, Heller announced his support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., at a 2011 news conference on Capitol Hill. On Monday, Heller announced his support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

A major gay rights bill has cleared its first hurdle in the Senate. On a vote of 61-30, the Senate voted to move ahead on the legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bipartisan vote increases the chances that the Senate will pass the bill by week's end, but its prospects in the Republican-led House are dimmer.

Speaker John Boehner remains opposed to the bill, arguing that it will lead to frivolous lawsuits and undercut job creation.

A vote would come 17 years after the Senate rejected a similar discrimination measure by one vote.

The Obama administration has said passage of the bill is long overdue.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would forbid employers with at least 15 employees to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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