For the first time, the Senate approved legislationThursday that would outlaw workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
The Employment Nondiscrimination Act, or ENDA, passed the Democratic-led chamber on a 64-32 vote.
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Despite its bipartisan passage, the bill stands little chance in the GOP-controlled House.
Speaker John Boehner does not support it and said he won't put it to a vote.
Still, gay rights advocates hailed passage of the bill as a major victory in a year of significant change for America's LGBT community.
The Supreme Court in June affirmed gay marriage and granted federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. And Illinois is on the verge of becoming the 15th state to legalize gay marriage, along with the District of Columbia.
President Barack Obama issued a statement calling ENDA's passage "a tribute to all those who fought for this progress ever since a similar bill was introduced after the Stonewall riots more than three decades ago."
ENDA includes a number of exemptions for religious institutions in an effort to gain more Republican support.
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The exemptions would also extend to schools or retail stores affiliated directly with churches, but it would not apply to those that have only loose religious affiliations.
That didn't stop many Republican senators from arguing against the legislation.
“We can’t pick and choose when to adhere to the Constitution, and when to cast it aside,” said Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana. “The so-called protections from religious liberty in this bill are vaguely defined and do not extend to all organizations that wish to adhere to their moral or religious beliefs in their hiring practices.”