WASHINGTON (AP)-- The Senate has approved a bill outlawing workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
The vote reflected the nation's rapidly evolving attitude toward gay rights nearly two decades after Congress rejected same-sex marriage. The final tally was 64-32.
Despite the bipartisan vote, the measure's chances in the House are dim. Speaker John Boehner calls the shots, and he opposes the bill.
Gay rights advocates hailed Senate passage as a major victory in a year of significant change.
The Supreme Court in June affirmed gay marriage and granted federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. Illinois is on the verge of becoming the 15th state to legalize gay marriage along with the District of Columbia.
"It is time for Congress to pass a federal law that ensures all our citizens - regardless of where they live - can go to work unafraid to be who they are," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who urged House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to reconsider his opposition.
Current federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin. But it doesn't stop an employer from firing or refusing to hire workers because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
The bill would bar employers with 15 or more workers from using a person's sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for making employment decisions, including hiring, firing, compensation or promotion. It would exempt religious institutions and the military.
About 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies have adopted nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation, according to the Human Rights Campaign. About 57 percent of those companies include gender identity.
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