The Obama administration signed an anti-harassment law Wednesday that expands the definition of a “protected class” to include LGBT Americans, gay people and other minorities, and prohibits employers from discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The law, the Equality Act, now goes to the Senate, where it faces a likely Democratic filibuster.
It makes it a federal crime for an employer to fire someone because they are gay or lesbian.
The bill requires employers to offer “inclusive employment opportunities” to LGBT people, but does not mandate that they do so.
Employers who fail to do so face a $50,000 fine and can be fined up to $2 million.
The law makes it illegal for someone to be fired because they’re transgender.
The LGBT Community Empowerment Act was passed by the Senate last month and signed by President Barack Obama.
The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who is running for re-election next year.
The Equality Act also included language that would allow employers to discriminate against people based on the sexual orientation of someone they hired.
The White House applauded the bill, calling it “important legislation to protect the rights of our LGBTQ employees.”
A majority of Republicans in the Senate oppose the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement that “the LGBT community has suffered at the hands of hate, intolerance and violence in the past.”
“It’s time for a change.
I’m proud to support an effort to address discrimination and to protect our LGBT employees from hate and intolerance.
This is just the first step.”
The Equality and Civil Rights Act is sponsored by Sens.
Cory Booker, D.-N.J., Jeff Merkley, D.
Ore., and Kirsten Elizabeth Gillibrands, D,N.H.
The bill was backed by civil rights and labor leaders and the Human Rights Campaign.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D., who caucuses with the Senate Democrats, was the first openly transgender person to serve in the U.S. Senate.
“It is time for our leaders to work together to fight discrimination and hate, and we need to pass this important piece of legislation so we can all work together and fight for the future of our country,” Baldwin said in an email.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D