Senate Passes Anti-Discrimination Bill

Gay rights advocates are celebrating a win today in the nation’s capital.

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill to ban workplace discrimination against gay and transgender people. Both Alaska senators voted for it. But, the bill is unlikely to become law.

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In the end, it wasn’t even close: 64-32. Sen. Mark Begich says the relative lack of controversy is a mark of how far the country has come on gay rights in recent years, and he thinks Alaska is no exception.

“I think Alaskans don’t believe in discrimination of any kind, and you shouldn’t discriminate in the workplace,” he said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of 10 Republicans who joined the Democrats in voting in favor of the non-discrimination bill, known by its acronym: ENDA.

Current federal law already bans employers from firing or refusing to hire based on race, sex or ethnicity, but in Alaska and 28 other states, no law expressly bans discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Murkowski said on the Senate floor the existing categories leave some people out.

“Those in the LGBT Community for whom discrimination on the bases of sex doesn’t apply, so what ENDA does, is it bridges that gap, and it is time that that gap is resolved,” she said.

It has an exception for churches and religious schools. Still, it’s unlikely to pass the House, or even come to the floor.

House Speaker John Boehner opposes it. He says it would lead to frivolous lawsuits.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She's @lruskin on Twitter. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz

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