Minutes ago, the U.S. Senate advanced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act by a bipartisan vote of 61-30. The measure, which makes it illegal to discriminate in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, is supported by a clear majority of Americans, including President Barack Obama.
The successful cloture vote clears the way for up to 30 hours of debate and amendments before a final vote to pass the measure. According to Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade, that final vote is expected on Wednesday.
If ENDA passes the Senate, it will move to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where it faces an uncertain future. Just today, House Speaker John Boehner came out in opposition to the bill, claiming through a spokesperson that removing the ability of employers to discriminate against LGBT workers will "increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs." With Boehner opposed, it's unlikely that he'll even bring ENDA up for a vote.
Still, today's vote is a significant milestone for LGBT rights, especially since it marks the first time that a trans-inclusive version of the bill has been brought to the floor in either house of Congress.
We expect the Bilerico inbox to shortly be stuffed with press releases, quotes, and statements from LGBT groups, progressive organizations, politicians, and the like. We'll round up the best of them for you after the break, updating this post as they come in.
(Note: the photo is from earlier in the cloture vote, just before ENDA crossed the 60-vote threshold and overcame any attempt at a filibuster from the Tea Party.)
Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
"We're now one step closer to achieving employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. This vote clears a critical hurdle in the advancement of this historic piece of legislation -- the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. We call upon all senators to stand with the majority of Americans who support the basic principle that everyone should have access to the American Dream, free from discrimination because of who they are or who they love. We urge the senators to vote for ENDA when it reaches the floor for a final vote."
Abbe Land, Executive Director & CEO of The Trevor Project
"The Trevor Project thanks each of the sixty-one members of the U.S. Senate for voting to protect the rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity from discrimination in employment. This important law is necessary because too many states lack protections for valuable members of the workforce who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. For youth who are LGBT, passage of inclusive ENDA means they truly can dream for the future and not fear the possibility of on-the-job mistreatment or discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
"We commend the efforts of lawmakers, employers, and organizations throughout this country for standing up in defense of LGBT people, and working to ensure discrimination is no longer tolerated in the American workplace."
"Earlier today, we delivered nearly 6,000 petition signatures asking for our allies Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Sherrod Brown, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Al Franken to stand up against the broad religious exemption in ENDA. Our members from coast to coast have spoken very clearly that the LGBT community deserves a bill that protects us now and in the future against religious bigotry.
"The current religious exemptions can potentially harm our community by allowing religiously-affiliated institutions from schools to hospitals have the legal permission to discriminate against LGBT workers. Even worse, it cements discrimination into law, and sets a backward precedent that affirms the second-class citizenship of LGBT Americans.
"Although Senator Reid's move to bring ENDA to the Senate floor for debate is a historic day for our community, we cannot remain silent about the potential harm of the current broad religious exemptions in the bill. It is not enough for our community to work only for what we think we can get -- we must demand what we deserve. This is why GetEQUAL will continue asking for our allies in the Senate to publicly oppose ENDA's broad religious exemption from the Senate floor."
Office of the White House Press Secretary
"The President welcomes the Senate's bipartisan first step towards final passage of S. 815, the Employment Non?Discrimination Act of 2013. He has long supported an inclusive ENDA, which would establish lasting and comprehensive Federal protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. He thanks the lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who have stood up for America's core values of fairness and equality, and looks forward to the Senate's consideration of ENDA. He also encourages lawmakers to ensure that the legislation remains true to its goals as it is considered. "
Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign
"Today we saw American democracy in action with the U.S. Senate finally following the will of a diverse and bipartisan collection of Americans calling for workplace fairness. With a super majority of Senators, more than 100 major American companies, and more than two-thirds of Americans all standing proudly in support of ENDA, there is tremendous momentum behind this common-sense bill. ENDA's time has come, and we're not going to stop fighting until it is passed once and for all.
"Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Harkin, lead sponsors Sens. Merkley and Kirk, and Sens. Collins and Baldwin, along with the rest of ENDA's bipartisan co-sponsors, have brought us closer to this goal than ever before."
"Unfortunately, House leadership appears to be consistently beholden to a tiny minority of anti-LGBT special interests and is already preparing to stand in the way. Americans are tired of partisanship and are looking for some sign that Washington can still get big things done. The Speaker, of all people, should certainly know what it's like to go to work every day afraid of being fired. Instead of letting the far right trample him again, it's time for Speaker Boehner to stand with the majority of everyday Republican voters and support ENDA."
Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way
"Today's Senate vote is a huge victory in the ongoing fight to end discrimination in all its forms. Passing ENDA is simply common sense - no one should be fired because of who they are or who they love. These basic workplace protections are so in line with American values that most of the country believes that these protections are already the law of the land.
"Sadly, anti-gay extremists on the right have resorted to dangerous fear mongering and flat-out lies in their push against this important legislation. From American Family Association spokesperson Bryan Fischer's declaration that ENDA would 'represent the return of Jim Crow laws' to Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver's warning that ENDA would result in the 'death of some individuals,' their outrageous claims make clear just how far away their views are from those of everyday Americans.
"I trust that the Senate will soon pass ENDA. The question then becomes whether House Republican leadership will stand on the side of anti-gay extremists or on the side of common sense and decency by allowing the bill to be taken up and passed."
Gabriel Blau, Executive Director of the Family Equality Council
"The Senate cloture vote to proceed to debate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is the first and necessary step in the process of protecting all American workers from unfair discrimination, harassment, or termination in the workplace because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Without this legislation, millions of parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) face the possibility of losing their jobs and the ability to provide economic security for their children. We applaud Senate leaders and the President for taking a stand in support of fairness for all American families.We'll continue to work aggressively to ensure these families have the employment protections they need."
U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI)
"When someone in the United States goes to work afraid they could be fired merely because of who they are, we are not living up to our ideals of equality before the law. Today, the Senate sent a clear message that in this country you should be judged on the work you do, not on who you love. The Employee Non-Discrimination Act is bipartisan, commonsense legislation that ensures all Americans have the opportunity to thrive and succeed in the workplace, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. I urge the House to follow the lead of the Senate, a majority of Fortune 500 companies, and the American people and ensure our workplaces are free from discrimination of any kind."
Mara Keisking, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality
"Tonight's cloture vote is a significant step forward for transgender people and their families. For the first time, the Senate will begin debate on a gender identity inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. For far too long, transgender people have had to endure disrespect, discrimination and harassment just for being who they are. And tonight, the U.S. Senate took action toward ending that."
"We thank the 61 Senators who voted on the motion. Their vote means transgender people are one step closer to having security at work and may finally have the fair shot we all deserve to provide for our families and our loved ones."
"As ENDA makes its way through the Senate process, NCTE and our allies will remain vigilant of attempts to water down its protections and stop amendments that could hurt its chances of passing. However, with tonight's vote, we remain optimistic that champions for transgender equality will stand behind America's values and ensure that a strong ENDA successfully passes out of the Senate."
Gregory T. Angelo, Executive Director, Log Cabin Republicans
"It's about time. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been languishing in the Senate since 1996, and we commend those Republicans today who made the critical difference in taking this common-sense, long-overdue vote. Cloture wouldn't have been possible without the support of those seven Republicans who voted on the right side of history today. Log Cabin Republicans encourages more of their GOP colleagues to do the same in the final ENDA vote this week."
Pennsylvania State Rep. Brian Sims (D)
"I have long believed that civil rights cannot be a one party issue. Senator Casey has supported LGBT civil rights from nondiscrimination to marriage equality, and I am proud to see him continue to demonstrate that support tonight. I am especially proud of Senator Toomey who tonight confirmed to Americans across the nation that civil rights is not an issue of right and left, but an issue of right and wrong. Senator Toomey's vote in support of ENDA shows that a conservative ideology and support for LGBT equality are not mutually exclusive.
"While I am heartened and invigorated by tonight's vote, we still have a long way to go in fulfilling our national creed that we are all created equal and endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In 29 states, including Pennsylvania, American citizens can still be fired from their jobs, kicked out of their homes, or denied services at businesses all because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. We must continue our efforts to pass nondiscrimination laws at the state level, such as HB300 here in Pennsylvania, to ensure that we eliminate the last vestiges of discrimination from our laws.
"But tonight, we have made great progress. And I wholeheartedly thank Senators Casey and Toomey for voting on the right side of history."