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Senate Adopts Broad Religious Exemptions Amendment For ENDA

The Senate approved an amendment to the LGBT-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act that provides broad, worrisome religious exemptions on Wednesday. 

The AP reports:

On a quick, voice vote Wednesday, the Senate approved an amendment from Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire that would prevent federal, state and local governments from retaliating against religious groups that are exempt from the law. The overall bill would prohibit workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

The vote set the stage for passage of the bill on Thursday when all 55 senators in the Democratic majority and a number of Republican senators are expected to back the measure.

Asked if he would vote for the bill, five-term Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who twice sought the presidency, said, "yes," then added in a brief interview, "if we get the amendments worked out."

McCain was a co-sponsor of the Portman-Ayotte amendment. The Senate plans to vote on Thursday on an amendment by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to expand the number of groups that are covered under the religious exemption.

Michelangelo Signorile reacted to the news and to the possibility of even broader religious exemptions being tacked onto the long-awaited legislation later this week:

"The fact that ENDA is unlikely to get a vote in the House gives us a chance to make sure the religious exemption comes out of this bill. That may make it harder to get it passed, and it may take a lot longer, but so be it. There are no shortcuts or bargains on civil rights. And quite honestly, when you ask for crumbs from the outset, both your friends and your enemies don't take you very seriously. We still need full protections in employment, housing and public accommodations, and none should include any religious exemptions. We need to stop viewing the ENDA vote this week as a sign of how far we've come -- as much of the hyped-up media has been doing -- and instead view it as a sign of how much further we need to go."