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Gay Rights Groups Pressure PA Senator Toomey on Vote

Sunday Nov 3, 2013

PHILADELPHIA - Gay rights groups are asking Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania to support a bill that aims to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

A key vote on the bill is scheduled for Monday evening in Washington, and one more vote is needed for it to move forward in the Senate, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, is a top priority for gay rights groups.

State Rep. Brian Sims, a gay Philadelphia Democrat, wrote Toomey an open letter Friday urging him to support the bill, saying it would give gays, bisexuals and transgendered individuals the same protections as other groups.

"I believe that there is no single piece of civil rights legislation in existence that is more impactful to members of the LGBT community," Simms wrote in the letter.

A spokesman for Toomey said the senator is undecided. The region's Democratic U.S. senators - Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Bob Menendez and newcomer Cory Booker, both of New Jersey - support the bill.

Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, urged senators Friday to vote no, the newspaper reported. The group warned that the bill would force business owners to "adopt the government's values" and "severely undermine civil liberties, increase government interference in the labor market, and trample on religious liberty."

But the bill has little chance of passage in the Republican-majority House of Representatives, meaning that Toomey's vote in the Senate is mostly symbolic.

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