Toomey Backs Bill Banning Workplace Discrimination Against Gays

PA's conservative senator breaks with his party.

The Allentown Morning Call reports: “Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey broke with the majority of his party Monday evening by voting to move forward with legislation that would ban workplace discrimination against gay employees. … The vote underscores a narrative Toomey is building ahead of his re-election campaign: He’s bullish on economic issues but is softer on social issues like guns and gay rights.”

Weird. Isn’t that kind of the narrative that Toomey used to drive late Sen. Arlen Specter out of the GOP and back to the Democratic Party?

Whatever. It seems to have worked. Inky blogger Jonathan Tamari writes:

The first openly-gay lawmaker elected in Pennsylvania, state Rep. Brian Sims, praised Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey for supporting a bill Monday night that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat, had particularly strong praise for Toomey, a Republican who is generally conservative on social issues but was one of seven Republicans to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), helping it move past a key procedural step and setting the stage for final Senate approval later this week.

“I have long believed that civil rights cannot be a one party issue. Sen. Casey has supported LGBT civil rights from nondiscrimination to marriage equality, and I am proud to see him continue to demonstrate that support tonight,” Sims said in a news release. “I am especially proud of Sen. Toomey who tonight confirmed to Americans across the nation that civil rights is not an issue of right and left, but an issue of right and wrong. Senator Toomey’s vote in support of ENDA shows that a conservative ideology and support for LGBT equality are not mutually exclusive.”

Toomey explained himself on Facebook:

I have long believed that more legal protections are appropriate to prevent employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. That is why I supported a provision in the Allentown charter barring the city government from discriminating against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation some 17 years ago, in 1996. More recently, it’s also why I supported allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons to serve openly in the military.

So I believe the Employment Non-Discrimination Act contains very important provisions. However, I also believe it should be improved, especially as it pertains to religious organizations. We must strive to reach the appropriate balance between protecting workers and protecting religious freedom. I voted to move forward with debate on ENDA with the hope that the Senate will take up amendments – including one that I plan to offer – to address this important aspect of the proposed law.