WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate in a procedural vote Monday advanced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect gay, lesbian and transgender Americans in the workplace.
Federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age or disability.
The 61-30 vote had the support of all Senate Democrats and seven Republicans: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, NBC News reported. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has supported the bill in the past but was not present for Monday's vote.
"The president welcomes the Senate's bipartisan first step towards final passage" of ENDA, White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
President Obama "has long supported an inclusive ENDA, which would establish lasting and comprehensive federal protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. He thanks the lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who have stood up for America's core values of fairness and equality, and looks forward to the Senate's consideration of ENDA. He also encourages lawmakers to ensure that the legislation remains true to its goals as it is considered."
ENDA failed by a single vote in the Senate in 1996, the last time the Senate voted on the legislation. Final Senate approval may come this week, though the House has no plans to take it up.
"The speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.