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Gay rights, religious freedom & Pat Toomey

| Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

All over the country, liberals are busy suing florists, bakers and photographers who decline to provide services to same-sex ceremonies.

In Ocean Grove, N.J., a Methodist association lost its tax-exempt status for declining use of its wedding pavilion to two lesbians. In Massachusetts and Illinois, Catholic Charities, one of America's oldest adoption agencies, has been forced to cease services for not providing adoptive children to gay couples.

All such cases involve believers invoking their sacred First Amendment religious rights, and, each time, the apostles of diversity and tolerance reject those rights. You are not free to disagree with liberals on this issue. They won't permit you.

That brings me to what has happened in the U.S. Senate.

The Senate voted on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA forbids discrimination against employees based on sexual preference, identity, or conduct. Again, on the surface, that sounds fine. The problem, however, is that some employers—especially religious ones—prefer not to hire an open homosexual because it violates their teachings or mission.

Sen. Bob Casey, the Pennsylvania Democrat, was a co-sponsor of ENDA. He joined every Democrat in supporting the bill. No surprise. I'm much more surprised, however, by Pat Toomey, a conservative Republican, also of Pennsylvania. Toomey joined a handful of Republicans in voting for ENDA.

Notably, both senators happen to be Roman Catholic, and the Catholic bishops have spoken against ENDA, saying it equates sexual orientation with race, undermines marriage and threatens religious liberty. The bishops would know. Their church is embroiled in a culture war with the state.

To that end, Toomey offered an amendment providing a religious exemption to ENDA — the kind of exemption that liberals have repeatedly refused. Toomey introduced the amendment on Nov. 6. It was rejected the next day. Of course it was.

Even then, Toomey voted for ENDA after his amendment was rejected. He hopes an amendment will be accepted in the House version of the bill.

Toomey's supporters are furious. His Facebook page is full of conservatives insisting they will not vote to re-elect him — and thrilled liberals who also won't vote for him. His supporters vow not to forget. Some might shrug that off as momentary anger. I wouldn't be so dismissive.

Recall 2006, when Rick Santorum lost his Senate seat. Among the reasons was anger by Pennsylvania conservatives over Santorum backing Arlen Specter. They never forgave him.

Will we witness a repeat of this scenario with Toomey? Is his ENDA vote a re-election killer?

Paul Kengor's most recent book is “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor.” His column appears the first Sunday of every month.

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