RICHMOND, Va. (AP)- Thanks to a tie-breaking vote by Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the Republican-controlled Virginia Senate has passed a bill prohibiting discrimination in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

It was the first tie-breaking vote of the 2015 legislative session by Northam, a Democrat.

Two Republicans, Sens. Jill Holtzman Vogel of Fauquier County and John Watkins of Powhatan County, joined minority Democrats in support of the bill, resulting in a 19-19 tie.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Donald McEachin, a Henrico County Democrat.

Similar measures have passed the Senate in prior sessions but have died in the heavily Republican House of Delegates.

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