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Gay rights groups want Sen. Toomey’s support

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Ahead of an expected vote next month on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, gay rights advocates took thousands of post cards to Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s Harrisburg office Wednesday to urge him to vote yes.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) became the 59th senator to announce support of the bill Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is seeking a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in order to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

A spokesman for Toomey says he is undecided on whether to support the bill but did not respond to questions asking what concerns the senator still has.

The bill would make it illegal to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace. Across the country, 21 states and Washington, D.C., have such laws in place. Pennsylvania does not.

“Many people don’t know, but it is still perfectly legal in the United States and in Pennsylvania to fire someone for being gay,” said Ted Martin, executive director of Equality PA.

Many businesses, including large corporations, have their own anti-discrimination policies.

Supporters of the bill would like to see that made into law.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the bill does not apply to businesses with fewer than 15 employees. It also does not apply to religious organizations or allow for preferential treatment.

Some Republican senators say they won’t support the bill for a variety of reasons, including concerns about reverse discrimination or quotas, potential litigation and the costs of compliance.

Sen. Reid says he wants to hold a vote on the bill before Thanksgiving.

Even if it passes the Senate, it’s fate in the House is uncertain.

“The U.S. House of Representatives is controlled by some fairly conservative people. I don’t’ say that they’re unreasonable. But, I think that they may have some difference of opinion about supporting this type of legislation,” said Martin

Similar bills have come up for a vote in Congress before. In those cases, the bill passed in one chamber only to die in the other.