The New York Times reported that 35 House Republicans joined 200 Democrats voting for the bill, which was approved 235 to 184. Voting against the bill were 25 Democrats and 159 Republicans.
The House bill bars employers from “fail(ing) or refus(ing) 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.” (See Bill Introduced to Extend Employment Discrimination Protection to GLBTs ).
U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) quickly announced he intended to introduce a Senate companion to the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she would sign on as a co-sponsor.
President Bush threatened to veto an earlier version of the bill, but White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the administration would need to review recent changes before making a final decision, the Times reported.
According to the news report, 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. Existing federal law, however, bars discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, disability and pregnancy.
Opponents said the law would result in spurious lawsuits. “It would be impossible for employers to operate a business without having to worry about being accused of discriminating against someone based on their ‘perceived’ sexual orientation,” said Representative Ginny Brown-Waite, (R-Florida).
To ensure passage of the bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and other Democrats, including Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who is openly gay, removed language granting protections to transsexuals and transgender individuals by barring discrimination based on sexual identity.