House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Monday that he won't take up a Senate bill intended to increase workplace protections for gay and transgendered workers.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said the Employment Non-Discrimination Act repeats protections provided by existing laws and pointed out that GOP leaders have long opposed the legislation.
"The speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost Americans jobs, especially small business jobs," Steel told the Washington Examiner.
Boehner's announcement could make it more difficult for Senate Democrats to win over the five Republican votes needed to advance the legislation to the Senate floor, where a vote is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
Democratic leaders in the Senate say they have secured the 60 votes needed to block a GOP filibuster on the bill, which would make it illegal for companies with 15 or more employees to refuse to hire someone or otherwise discriminate against someone "because of … perceived sexual orientation or gender identity."
The bill would for the first time allocate special federal protections for people who dress and act as the opposite sex, protecting them from wrongful firing or discrimination in the hiring of employees.
President Obama wrote a blog post Sunday urging passage of the bill.
Conservative groups have been lobbying heavily against the bill, saying it threatens civil liberties, the free market and the moral culture.
Democrats are hyping the Republican opposition to the bill as an example of the socially backward attitude of the GOP in the face of widening social acceptance of the gay and transgendered.
The office of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., issued a statement Monday accusing Boehner of standing "on the wrong side of history" by refusing to take up the legislation in the House.
Pelosi aides pointed to a Government Accountability Office report released in July that found that in the 22 states where similar non-discrimination laws are already in place "relatively few" discrimination lawsuits occurred as as result.
The study shows mostly a slight uptick in lawsuits based on sexual orientation. In some states, numbers were not available for lawsuits based on discrimination associated with gender identity. States where numbers were available showed only a handful of cases. In Nevada, six cases based on gender identity workforce discrimination were filed in 2012, compared with none in 2011.
In response to Boehner's announcement, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill issued a statement that said, "When the Senate passes this legislation, all options will be on the table in order to advance this critical legislation in the House."