Gay Bill Heads to Floor of Senate; Targets Workplace Discrimination against homosexuals.(NATION)

Article excerpt


Legislation to ban workplace discrimination against homosexuals is headed to the Senate floor after being approved yesterday by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's committee.

The measure, which would prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation, is a priority for Senate Democrats who do not know when it will be considered. Mr. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, wants to bring it up before the end of the year.

Some conservatives criticized the measure - which passed the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee by voice vote yesterday - as unnecessary and burdensome.

"I have a lot of concerns about the bill," said committee member Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. "It has the potential of resulting in a lot of unnecessary, excessive litigation."

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, agreed, saying, "We all want to end discrimination but by putting the onus on businesses, there are unintended consequences."

Mr. Davis doubted the bill will make it through the House.

But Mr. Kennedy, the bill's sponsor, said there is "irrefutable and compelling evidence of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and we must respond."

Twelve states and the District of Columbia have similar laws banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. "This patchwork of protection from employment discrimination leaves many American workers without redress. A federal law is sorely needed," Mr. Kennedy said.

The measure would bar employers, employment agencies and labor organizations from hiring, firing or making compensation decisions based on sexual orientation. It also would prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee who takes action against the company under the bill. …