From the New York Times:
"The House on Wednesday approved a bill granting broad protections against discrimination in the workplace for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, a measure that supporters praised as the most important civil rights legislation since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 but that opponents said would result in unnecessary lawsuits.
The bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, is the latest version of legislation that Democrats have pursued since 1974. Representatives Edward I. Koch and Bella Abzug of New York then sought to protect gay men and lesbians with a measure they introduced on the fifth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the brawl between gay men and police officers at a bar in Greenwich Village that is widely viewed as the start of the American gay rights movement.
“On this proud day of the 110th Congress, we will chart a new direction for civil rights,” said Representative Kathy Castor, a Florida Democrat and a gay rights advocate, in a speech before the vote. “On this proud day, the Congress will act to ensure that all Americans are granted equal rights in the work place.”
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat and a longtime supporter of gay rights legislation, said he would move swiftly to introduce a similar measure in the Senate. Some Senate Republicans said that, if worded carefully, it would have a good chance of passing, perhaps early next year.
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has said that she would be the lead co-sponsor of the Senate bill. Ms. Collins, in a statement, said that the House vote “provides important momentum” and that “there is growing support in the Senate for strengthening federal laws to protect American workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
President Bush threatened to veto an earlier version of the bill, but a White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said the administration would need to review recent changes before making a final decision. Few Democrats expect Mr. Bush to change his mind.
The House bill would make it illegal for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment of the individual, because of such individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation.”
While 19 states and Washington, D.C., have laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, and many cities offer similar protections, federal law offers no such shield, though it does bar discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, disability and pregnancy."
The bill, however, does not outlaw discrimination based on gender identity.
"To ensure passage of the bill, Ms. Pelosi and other Democrats, including Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who is openly gay, removed language granting protections to transsexual and transgender individuals by barring discrimination based on sexual identity, a move that infuriated gay rights groups.
The Democrats also carved out a blanket exemption for religious groups, drawing the ire of civil liberties advocates who argued that church-run hospitals, for instance, should not be permitted to discriminate against gay employees. The civil liberties groups wanted a narrow exemption for religious employers.
On the House floor, Ms. Pelosi acknowledged challenges. “History teaches us that progress on civil rights is never easy,” she said. “It is often marked by small and difficult steps.”