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Vote scheduled on workplace discrimination law

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Albany/HV: Vote scheduled on workplace discrimination law
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A federal bill that would ban workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgendered people is poised to come up for an important procedural vote in the Senate on Monday. As our Washington, D.C. bureau reporter Michael Scotto reports, gay rights groups are feverishly trying to line up enough Senators to prevent it from dying on the Senate floor.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gay rights groups believe the momentum is building.

"We think that we're close to the 60 votes that we need," said Michael Cole-Schwartz, Human Rights Campaign.

Those 60 votes are needed to prevent a Republican filibuster of a major gay rights bill called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. At the moment, it is shy just one vote, with the support of 59 senators, including four Republicans. The bill would ban workplace discrimination nationwide on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Currently, more than half the states don't offer such a protection.

Cole-Schwartz said, "There's a patchwork of laws out there. People can be fired, not hired, simply because of who they are and that's not an American value and it's not good for business."

New York bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, but the law currently in place doesn't explicitly protect transgendered people.

Conservative groups are opposed, even though the bill includes an exemption for religious institutions.

"It would lead to reverse discrimination against perhaps conservative or Christian employees who may verbalize their own private convictions about these issues," said Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council.

Even if the bill passes the Senate, it faces a major uphill climb in the House, where Republican leadership has given no indication that they will ever bring it to the floor for a vote.

In New York, Republicans Chris Gibson and Tom Reed, both of whom are facing tough Democratic challengers next year, say they're in favor.

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