The U.S. Senate has voted to begin debate on a major gay rights bill.
The Democrat-led Senate voted 61- 30 Monday to move ahead on the legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Hours before the vote, President Barack Obama issued a new plea for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the first significant gay rights bill since Congress lifted the ban on gays serving openly in the military nearly three years ago.
The bill is expected to be passed by the Democratic-led Senate by week's end, but its prospects in the Republican-led House are grim.
Speaker John Boehner remains opposed to the bill, arguing that it will lead to frivolous lawsuits and will undercut job creation.