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Feinstein Seeks to Bar Hiring Bias

Having failed in a similar effort in the 107th Congress, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced a resolution last week that would prohibit Senate offices from discriminating against gays and lesbians when hiring employees.

The resolution would alter rule XLII of the Senate’s Standing Rules to add “sexual orientation” to the list of factors offices may not consider during the hiring process. Current rules prohibit discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or state of physical handicap.”

Feinstein introduced a similar measure in June 2002. The bill picked up 43 co-sponsors — 41 Democrats plus Independent Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) and GOP Sens. Gordon Smith (Ore.), Lincoln Chafee (R.I.) and Susan Collins (Maine). It was referred to the Rules and Administration Committee and saw no further action in the 107th Congress. [IMGCAP(1)]

Though this year’s version of the resolution already has 31 co-sponsors, with Smith again the only Republican to sign on, Feinstein made clear that she is aware of the obstacles in the bill’s path.

“I introduced this resolution because it is the right thing to do,” said Feinstein. “These things have been difficult to get approved in the past, and I anticipate it will be difficult this time as well. I think it is important to be on the record opposed to discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

As the bill did not advance last year when Democrats controlled the Senate and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) — who co-sponsored the resolution — ran Rules, it is not clear what the measure’s prospects are now that the panel is chaired by Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Dodd serves as ranking member.

Ken Jones, the Rules panel majority’s chief counsel, said he had not yet seen the resolution and thus could not predict if or when it would receive a hearing.