President Obama on Thursday hailed the Senate’s passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend workplace protections to gay Americans, saying it would “help end the injustice” of employees being fired because of their sexual orientation.
“For more than two centuries, the story of our nation has been the story of more citizens realizing the rights and freedoms that are our birthright as Americans,” said Obama in a statement shortly after the Senate’s 64-32 vote. “Just as no one in the United States can lose their job simply because of their race, gender, religion or a disability, no one should ever lose their job simply because of who they are or who they love.”
The bill faces an uncertain path in the House, where it is opposed by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Critics say the bill will subject businesses to costly employment lawsuits and could punish religious groups opposed to homosexuality.
Obama urged lawmakers from both parties to rally behind the bill, saying it was now “up to the House of Representatives.”
“One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do. Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it,” said Obama.
"I urge the House Republican leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote and send it to my desk so I can sign it into law,” he continued. “On that day, our nation will take another historic step toward fulfilling the founding ideals that define us as Americans.”
Ten GOP senators voted in support of the historic bill and Obama praised those who shepherded the bill through the upper chamber, including Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, Ill., whom the president said spoke “so eloquently in support.”
Earlier this week, Kirk delivered his first speech on the Senate floor since suffering a stroke and urged his colleagues to pass the bill.
“Today’s victory is 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,” said Obama.
White House press secretary Jay Carney also heralded the Senate vote.
“We commend the senators who voted ‘yes’ and we hope and insist that the House take up the legislation,” Carney told reporters.
“To oppose this kind of legislation is to announce that you want to be left behind by history,” he added.
Carney said that opponents of the bill used rhetoric that reminded him of past opposition to other civil rights measures.
“They were wrong then and they are wrong now,” he said. “This is the right thing to do. Its the right thing to do because we are all equal.”