During its first House hearing, openly gay representatives Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin urged passage of a federal gay protections bill, the AP reported.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (transgender protections) in the area of employment.

Both representatives testified Wednesday before the House Education and Labor Committee considering the bill.

“Trying to get a job or join the military has not been the hallmark of radicalism,” Frank said referring to the claims of opponents who have labeled the bill part of a “radical agenda.”

A majority of Fortune 500 companies have already adopted policies that protect gay and lesbian workers. Baldwin said it was time “to bring our laws in line with the reality of American life.”

If approved, the law would exempt the military, religious groups and small businesses with fewer than 15 employees.

“ENDA is a litigation minefield and a direct threat to religious liberty in the workplace,” Tom Minnery, vice president of government and public policy at Focus on the Family, said in a letter addressed to representatives.

“What will happen when homosexual or 'transgender' employees object to: religious articles on employees' desks; water cooler discussions about biblical morality; Bible verses taped to cubicle walls; fliers on company bulletin boards advertising discussions concerning traditional marriage?,” Minnery asks. “This is already happening in states and municipalities with ENDA type laws and many of these case are in litigation.”

Minnery also argues that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity just doesn't exist and that being gay is a fluid orientation that cannot be defined: “How can a business be expected to avoid discrimination against categories of individuals that are potentially ever-changing and based on subjective self-identification?”

A similar bill that omitted transgender protections passed the House two years ago but died under the threat of a presidential veto in the Senate. This year, President Obama has pledged his support. Frank sponsored both measures in the House. A Senate version was introduced by two Democrats – the late Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon – and two Republicans – Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine – before the summer recess.

Twenty-one states ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, but only 12 states protect transgender people.