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Toomey pushed to back anti-discrimination bill

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By The Associated Press
Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 3:36 p.m.

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

A key vote on the bill is scheduled for Monday 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 Philadelphia Democrat who is gay, wrote Toomey an open letter on Friday urging him to support the bill, saying it would give gay, lesbian, bisexual 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,” Sims wrote in the letter.

A spokesman for Toomey said the senator is undecided. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. supports the measure.

Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, urged senators on Friday to vote against the bill, the newspaper reported. The group warned that the measure would force business owners to “adopt the government's values,” “severely undermine civil liberties, increase government interference in the labor market, and trample on religious liberty.”

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

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