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Government and Politics

Ohio's Portman may be the key in finally passing employment anti-discrimination bill
Portman says sexual orientation should not be the measure of work, but wants to protect religious organizations

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M.L. Schultze
Ohio's U.S. Sen. Rob Portman may be the key vote on a bill that's languished for six years.
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Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Rob Portman says he is working on changes in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that might make his the crucial 60th vote needed to pass the bill.

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The act would ban discrimination by employers based on sexual orientation or gender identity by employers. It passed the House when it was controlled by Democrats back in 2007. But it stalled under the threat of a filibuster in the Senate.

With more votes shifting this week, it may be just one vote – Portman’s – shy of the 60 it needs to break a filibuster.

In a conference call with Ohio reporters, Portman says he’s working to strengthen the bill’s balance.

“I think people should be judged on their job performance and on the merits, not by what their sexual orientation is. So that’s what I’m working on. … The legislation does have language with regards to religious freedom that I would like to improve because I also believe as a matter of principle that (religious institutions) and people should be able to … have their religious beliefs protected.”

Portman refused to be specific, however, on what those improvements may be. The bill already exempts churches and missions.

Earlier this year, Portman acknowledged that his oldest son is gay, and Portman reversed his position on legalizing gay marriage.

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