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Gay employees can still be fired in Texas

By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- Gay rights groups are celebrating a vote by the Senate to ban discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace, but some people aren't considering it a victory just yet.

It may be hard for some people to believe in today's day and age but employees can still be fired for being gay. It's discrimination that's legal in 29 states -- Texas being one of them.

"It sucks, to put it bluntly," said William Ellis of central El Paso.

Ellis wears two hats. He's a licensed attorney and the chairman for a local gay rights group. When asked about the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) he said, "It's not an airtight bill, but it's better than nothing."

The proposed bill would protect gay workers in businesses with 15 employees or more. Gay rights activists said they're over the first hurtle -- the Senate. The Senate approved the bill 64-32 last week.

Activists consider this vote a huge success, since this bill was first proposed to the Senate in 1996 with no luck.

But legislators are telling people not to get too excited yet. In order to become a law, ENDA must first pass through the house.

"I'm just not naive. This house isn't going to do it, period. It's just that simple," said Ellis.

Some people, like Ellis, are concerned House Speaker John Boehner may try to squash the topic.

"He has, I guess, given reasons for why he does not want to bring it to the floor and for whatever reason does not think that it is a priority for this country," said Rep. Beto O'Rourke.

O'Rourke said he supports the bill. He also said if a discharge petition is brought to members, he would sign and try to force ENDA to be voted on.

"Whether or not the speaker or that majority of his party agrees with this bill or not, I think the American people and those of us in El Paso deserve an up-or-down vote," said O'Rourke.

Ellis said he feels the same as O'Rourke, but isn't as optimistic. When asked why he appeared so numb to the topic he responded saying, "I prefer realistic."

Ellis said relief is just miles away from where he lives, in New Mexico, but wants to stay in El Paso and feels passing ENDA is only right.

O'Rourke said Boehner has not yet added ENDA to the House agenda. He said if it's not approved this time around, legislators can push the bill again under the next Congress.
 

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