Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Mark Kirk of Illinois on Thursday will reintroduce the Senate version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) at a news conference scheduled for 10:30AM.

The bill seeks to outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (transgender protections).

Openly gay Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank reintroduced the bill in the House last week. However, nearly half of the of the bill's support from last year had eroded in the new Republican-dominated Congress.

Kirk is among the three Republicans expected to co-sponsor the legislation out of the gate.

According to gay weekly the Washington Blade, Maine Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are also backing the new effort.

While Collins and Snowe are considered moderate Republicans with a strong record supporting gay rights, Kirk, as a member of the House, last year angered gay rights activists when he voted against repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the 1993 law that forbids gay and bisexual troops from revealing their sexuality.

After winning his Senate seat, however, Kirk reversed his position, and voted for repeal of the law.