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Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) talks to reporters during a series of votes in Washington December 17, 2011. The U.S. Senate voted on Saturday to extend a payroll tax cut for two months in legislation that also attempts to force President Barack Obama to appro
Orrin Hatch voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. No, really.
A Senate committee approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act Wednesday morning. And get this: The vote was bipartisan, with Republicans Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joining Democrats in support for a 15 to seven margin.

With the bill having had 53 cosponsors before Hatch and Murkowski decided to vote for it, it appears to now have 55 votes, within striking distance of filibuster-busting levels. And Hatch's support, which was contingent on strong exemptions for religious employers, should help some other Republicans, like Ohio's Rob Portman, to support the bill. You'd think.

ENDA would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia have such laws, with only 16 of those offering protection based on gender identity, meaning that workers can be and are fired or otherwise abused for these reasons. The United States has made huge strides in recent years on marriage equality. But people need equality in the workplace, too, and too many LGBT people don't have that yet. This vote is a good step. Getting the bill through the Senate will be a better one, even if the Republican House is likely to continue to stand in the way.

The White House issued a statement on the vote:

The President welcomes the bipartisan approval of S. 815, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2013, by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today. He thanks Committee Chairman Harkin, Senator Merkley, and Senator Kirk for their leadership on this important issue.  The President has long supported an inclusive ENDA, which would enshrine into law strong, lasting and comprehensive protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We look forward to the full Senate’s consideration of ENDA, and continue to urge the House to move forward on this bill that upholds America’s core values of fairness and equality.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 08:39 AM PDT.

Also republished by RaceGender DiscrimiNATION and Daily Kos.

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