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Washington (AFP) – The U.S. Senate passed a historic gay rights bill Thursday that would prohibit companies from hiring and firing based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed 64-32, with support from both Democrats and Republicans.

“The Senate has clearly spoken to end discrimination in the workplace,” said Democratic Senator Jeff Merkely, who led the push to get the legislation approved in the Democratic-led chamber.

“Now I hope the momentum will carry to the House.”

The measure faces a tough challenge in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner has signalled his opposition on the basis that it hurts business and would trigger costly lawsuits.

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

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