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Coats: 'I am not able' to back ENDA

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) on Thursday became the first senator to speak on the floor against a gay rights bill that the Senate is expected to pass by the early afternoon.

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The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is aimed at preventing workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But Coats said the bill goes too far and would infringe on the right to freely exercise religious beliefs in certain religious institutions.

"I oppose discrimination of any kind, and that includes discrimination, however, also of individuals or institutions for their faith and values," Coats said. "This often gets lost, and it has been lost in this discussion."

"So I feel it's vital for this body to stand up for our country's longstanding right to the freedom of religion and speech," he added. "For these reasons, I am not able to support this current legislation."

Coats said specifically that while the bill does include some protections for religious liberty, those protections are "vaguely defined," and don't apply as broadly as he wants to religious organizations. As one example, he said faith-based daycare providers could be forced under the bill to hire people with "views contrary" to those of the organization.

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