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Senate Passes Bill Banning Discrimination against Gay Workers

The U.S. Senate recently passed legislation that would ban discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The measure, known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), passed on a vote of 61-30.

Current federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin, but does not offer the same workplace protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender employees. Under ENDA, companies with 15 or more workers would not be able to factor an employee's sexual orientation or gender identity in their employment decisions, including hiring, firing, compensations and promotions.

There are currently 22 states that ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, 17 of which also prohibit companies from discriminating against employees based on gender identity. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 88% of Fortune 500 companies ban workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual workers; of those, 57% extend their policy to cover transgendered workers.

President Obama urged both the House and Senate to pass this bill so he can sign it into law. However, House Speaker John Boehner's office has indicated that he will not vote for the bill, adding that ENDA will not pass in the House.

Currently, New York State law protects employees in both the public and private sector from workplace discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. While New York law also protects employees of state and local governments on the basis of gender identity and/or gender expression, those protections have not yet been extended to the private sector.

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