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By a vote of 64 to 32, the U.S. Senate recently passed a bill, the Employment Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2013, which would prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Although this bill stands little chance of making it through the Republicancontrolled House of Representatives, its passage is noteworthy—and encouraging —on many fronts. Although bills of this sort have been introduced periodically since 1974, and the House of Representatives has voted to pass a bill like this, the Senate has never given its approval. Moreover, in addition to unanimous Democratic support, the bill also garnered the support of ten Republican senators, including John McCain and Orrin Hatch. And while most Republican senators voted against the bill, almost none of them spoke out against the bill, or trafficked in the kinds of stereotyping and disparagement that had accompanied debate on previous versions of this bill.

In this column, I’ll explain the protections that ENDA would add, and the gaps in existing law that make it a necessary complement to existing antidiscrimination laws.