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Biden presses gay rights in workplace

LOS ANGELES — Vice President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass a measure to outlaw workplace discrimination against gays, saying it is outrageous that the country is even debating the subject.

Speaking to supporters of the gay advocacy group Human Rights Campaign on Saturday, Biden said it is ‘‘close to barbaric’’ that in some states, employees can be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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‘‘The country has moved on; the American people have moved on,’’ he said.

Biden said it is time for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — known as ENDA — which would bar employers with 15 or more workers from using a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for making employment decisions, including hiring, firing, compensation, or promotion. Religious institutions and the military would be exempted.

“The single most basic of all human rights is the right to decide who you love,” Biden said, adding that Americans in 20 years would look back with dismay at current discrimination against gays and lesbians in some states.

“It’s been a long struggle, and recently there’s been some real progress, but there’s so much left to do,” he said.

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