BY SAM HANANEL, ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) measure won support from all the Democrats and three Republicans on the 22-member committee, signaling it has a strong chance of passage in the full Senate.
"Despite significant progress for LGBT people and families in recent years there is still no explicit federal law that protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination; ENDA would extend federal employment discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity," according to the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. "Currently only 17 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, while an additional four prohibit employment discrimination based only on sexual orientation. As a result, LGBT people face serious discrimination in employment, including being fired, being denied a promotion and experiencing harassment on the job."
The vote is the latest victory for gay rights advocates and another signal of rapidly changing attitudes in Congress. It comes after the Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that same-sex spouses are entitled to the same federal benefits as other married couples in states where gay marriage is legal.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he expects the full Senate to take up the measure later this year. It is not clear whether GOP leaders in the House will consider the bill.