Reaction to House-passed anti-bias bill

After the House yesterday passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit workplace bias against gay, lesbian or bisexual employees, lawmakers, proponents and opponents are speaking out, and President Bush is promising a veto.

Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat a co-sponsor of the bill, blasted lawmakers for amending the bill to exclude transgendered individuals. The bill was changed when the transgender language threatened the legislation’s passage.

“While I understand the concerns of those fearing the viability of the entire bill, there is never a convenient time to give an oppressed minority greater rights. You just have to do the right thing. Today we did not do right by transgender people,” Ellison stated. “I will not rest until we do.”

Sen. Edward Kennedy, while echoing the sentiment of disappointment at the bill’s narrower scope, said it was a move in the right direction. Massachusetts Democrat Kennedy, and Maine republican Susan Collins have pledged to co-sponsor a Senate version of the bill.

“Although the House bill is narrower than we had hoped, the House’s approval [is] a major step in the journey toward full civil rights for the entire gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community,” Kennedy said. “The House has clearly recognized the basic injustice of job discrimination based on sexual orientation. No one should face discrimination in the workplace because of who they are. I look forward to taking up this issue in the Senate so that we can finally ensure that no American finds the doors of opportunity locked shut by prejudice and bigotry.”

Several Republicans voiced opposition for the bill, some arguing that it would could force religious organizations to hire gay and lesbian employees, while others said the bill was a measure aimed at pushing debate about gay marriage.

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