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Final Dem holdout flips on gay rights

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is one vote closer to becoming law.
/ Source: MSNBC TV

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is one vote closer to becoming law.

Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin will vote in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), according to multiple reports, putting the gay rights legislation just one vote shy of a filibuster-proof 60 vote count in the Senate.  

A spokesperson for Manchin, the lone Democratic holdout on the legislation, confirmed his vote to several outlets Wednesday. A call to Manchin's office was not immediately returned.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said earlier this week that he was ready to bring ENDA to the Senate floor, and was confident he could get the 60 votes to pass the bill. On Monday, prior to Manchin's announcement, the bill had 58 supporters—only four of whom were Republicans. 

Reid and Democrats must rely on their Republican colleagues to help them reach 60 votes —and they could be in luck with the evolving perspectives of conservatives like Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who came out in favor of marriage equality earlier this year after revealing his son is gay. Portman told the Cincinnati Enquirer Tuesday he was inclined to support ENDA, but was "still working on some of the religious liberty issues." 

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday he is still undecided on his position, because the effects of the bill were too vague to determine if the bill's passage would be a good thing.

McCain told the Huffington Post that he was worried ENDA's passage would bring about "reverse discrimination" in the workplace. 

"Whether it imposes quotas, whether it has reverse discrimination, whether it has the kinds of provisions that really preserve equal rights for all citizens or, like for example, busing. Busing was done in the name of equality. Busing was a failure. Quotas were a failure. A lot of people thought they were solutions. They weren't. They bred problems," McCain said.

But ENDA does not force quotas on companies. While discrimination based on race, gender, or religion is already illegal under federal law, discrimination based on sexual orientation is technically legal. ENDA would simply ensure gay employees that they could not be fired because their employers did not approve of their sexual orientation.

The bill could easily die in the Republican-controlled House, but the vote would force senators to be on-record about LGBT rights.