WASHINGTON — A long-stalled bill banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is likely to pass the Senate as early as this week, a sign of the fast-changing political landscape for gay rights.
The fight over the measure is far from over, however. Conservative groups launched a last-ditch effort to stop it in the Senate. In the House, approval appeared even slimmer as Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced his opposition.
The Senate signaled its likely approval Monday with a 61-30 vote clearing the way for debate and a final vote this week on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal to discriminate in the hiring and firing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers.
Florida's senators were split, with Democrat Bill Nelson voting to begin debate and Republican Marco Rubio opposed. The Senate's likely approval reflects changing times and changing public and political attitudes among Democrats and Republicans toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
"Today marks another step forward in the progress of the United States of America in making sure that all of our citizens are treated fairly and equitably under law," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. "It is a huge step forward, one too long in coming."
The bill, introduced in Congress every year since 1994, failed by one vote in the Senate in 1996. In 2007, it passed the House but died in the Senate.
Since then, Congress overturned the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy in 2010 and ended the ban on gays and lesbians serving in uniform.