17 years after defeat, Senate advances gay rights bill

WASHINGTON — The Senate moved forward Monday on a bill to prohibit workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians in a dramatic 61-30 vote. But opposition from the House speaker means the bill may not get to President Obama’s desk.

The Senate vote was not without suspense. With Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., at a funeral, Democrats needed last-minute support from two Republicans to get the 60 votes necessary to prevent a filibuster. Democratic leaders went into the Republican cloakroom to plead with Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. After half an hour of voting, both voted yes.

The vote clears the way for the Senate to consider the issue for the first time since 1996, when it failed in the Senate by a single vote.

The last House effort to pass the bill succeeded,235 to 184, in a Democratic-controlled Congress in 2007. But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, reaffirmed his long-standing opposition to the bill Monday, making it unlikely the House will schedule a vote. “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small-business jobs,” Boehner press secretary Michael Steel said.

via 17 years after defeat, Senate advances gay rights bill.