WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate voted 64-32 Thursday in favor of legislation banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, establishes federal protections for gay and transgender people in the workplace.
"In approving #ENDA, Senators on both sides of the aisle stood up for #equality. It's time for the House to vote," tweeted the Office of Vice President Joe Biden immediately after the historic vote.
The legislation was passed by the U.S. House six years ago but Thursday was the first time the Senate passed it, The Hill said.
"Today, a bipartisan majority in the Senate took another important step in this journey by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would help end injustice of our fellow Americans being denied a job or fired just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," said a statement by President Barack Obama issued by the White House press office.
"Let the bells of freedom ring," said the bill's sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. "The Senate has clearly spoken to end discrimination in the workplace."
The measure now goes to the Republican-controlled House where Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, opposes the protections he believes would expose businesses to frivolous lawsuits.
"The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
The legislation exempts religious organizations and small businesses with fewer than 15 employees, The Hill noted.
"I urge the House Republican leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote and sent it to my desk so I can sign it into law," the president said.