Genetic non-discrimination bill will finally become law

The bill essentially makes it illegal to deny people jobs or other benefits based on the results of a genetic test. Without this protection predictive health, in which care is customized based on genetic information, can't get going.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, NY, chair of the Rules CommitteeThe U.S. Senate voted 95-0 yesterday to approve the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

A similar bill passed the House last year and President Bush is expected to sign it.

The vote caps a 13-year battle by Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat, and was supported by the genetic testing industry as well as civil rights advocates.

Since she began pushing the bill the 78-year old Slaughter has risen to the top of the House Leadership. She is now chair of the House Rules Committee.  

The bill was held up by Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, over fears it would lead to lawsuits. Amendments were made to overcome his opposition, so the bill must go back to the House.

In the House, only three members voted no when it came up last year. They were Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona, Republican Ed Royce of California, and (our old friend) Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Their opposition was likely over the same issues highlighted by Coburn.

The bill essentially makes it illegal to deny people jobs or other benefits based on the results of a genetic test. Without this protection predictive health, in which care is customized based on genetic information, can't get going.

So this is a big deal.