In a historic vote, the Senate passed the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) 64-32 yesterday, with 52 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and 2 Independents supporting the measure. ENDA would protect people from discrimination due to gender identity or sexual orientation in the work place. If passed by the House, it would be the first federal LGBT rights law. ENDA was first introduced to Congress in 1994 but never got out of either chamber until yesterday.

“No one should have to face employment discrimination or the fear of being fired simply because of who they are,” said Maya Rupert, Policy Director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “This vote is historic and signals a sea-change in the fight for workplace equality. It is no longer a question of if LGBT employees will receive federal workplace protections—it is a question of when.”

Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) believes ENDA would pass in the House if brought to a vote, it is opposed by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). President Obama has urged the House Republican Leadership to bring ENDA to the floor for a vote.

“If the House of Representatives were freed by Speaker John Boehner to vote its conscience, this bill could pass immediately,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “It’s unconscionable that any one person would stand in the way of this crucial piece of the civil rights puzzle.”

Twenty-one states have laws that protect against sexual orientation discrimination in workplaces, and 17 states protect against gender identity discrimination. This still leaves 33 states where a person can be fired for no other reason than being who they are.

Sources: CNN 11/8/13; Thinkprogress 11/7/13, 6/14/13

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