BY BEN JOHNSON
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 7, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – This afternoon the Senate approved a bill that could force business owners who adhere to traditional values to hire homosexuals, bisexuals, and those who do not dress in accordance with their biological sex or face litigation.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed following a bipartisan 64-32 vote.
John McCain voted yea
Supporters say it would forbid “workplace discrimination” against homosexuals and transgender employees and job-seekers. But critics say, like the HHS mandate, its religious exemption is unduly narrow and would force employers – including Christian schools and nurseries – to violate their consciences.
Its protections for “transgender” workers would allow a biological male who self-identifies as a female to use the company's women's restroom or locker room. It would also allow employees to sue if they believed they had faced “discrimination” on the job, experienced a hostile work environment, or had not received a job because of their sexual preference or cross-dressing habits.
All Senate Democrats voted for its approval except Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, who did not vote.
Ten of the chamber's 45 Republicans also voted yes, including John McCain, Rob Portman, Pat Toomey, and Lisa Murkowski.
Only one senator spoke against ENDA on the Senate floor, Dan Coats of Indiana.
President Obama hailed the bill's speedy passage. “Today’s victory is a tribute to all those who fought for this progress ever since a similar bill was introduced after the Stonewall riots more than three decades ago,” he said, adding that the bill is backed by a number of “corporations” and “faith communities.”
While the bill exempts churches and houses of worship and some affiliated institutions, it does not include many overtly religious nonprofits or business owners. The New York Times called these protections “unduly broad.” But the Becket Fund called the bill's religious exemption “manifestly inadequate."
This morning the Senate adopted, by voice vote, an amendment offered by Republicans Rob Portman and Kelly Ayotte that religious institutions protected by the act would not lose federal funding or other government partnerships if they opposed homosexuality. The Family Research Council'sDavid Christensen, said the amendment did nothing to change the fact that ENDA “removes the ability of non-profits, para-church ministries, and individual business owners to make their own decisions about appropriate conduct in the workplace.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid candidly told the homosexual newspaper The Washington Bladethat he believed the amendment was merely “an effort by them to have a reason for joining the bill.”
Senators rejected an amendment from Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey to apply the bill to businesses “in whole or in substantial part owned, controlled, or managed by a particular religion or by a particular religious corporation, association, or society.” Toomey also supported the final bill.
The bill's broad reach threatens faithful business owners, its critics say. The Catholic bishops conference (USCCB) warned ENDA could “punish” those who hold traditional religious views, including Catholics and evangelicals.
“ENDA would lead to a form of reverse discrimination,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said this afternoon. “Anyone who expresses or promotes a view of family or morality that can be interpreted to be a disapproval of homosexual or transgender conduct will be subject to retaliation and discrimination.”
The group referred lawmakers to numerous lawsuits and complaints of alleged “homophobia,” some costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The potential to harm business owners convinced House Speaker John Boehner to come out against the bill, saying it will not enjoy a vote in the lower chamber. President Obama has hinted he may sign an executive order including the bill's provisions if it is not adopted into law.
In this afternoon's vote our senators, including one Democrat, did not vote today.
Republicans who voted yes include Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
You may view vote results here.