Asked Thursday morning whether it should be legal for a hotel to turn away a couple because they're gay, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey told Salon, “I haven’t given that any thought.” Salon’s question was one of several asked by reporters as Toomey walked to his car following an address to the Conservative Political Action Conference. As Salon and other outlets attempted to ask follow-up questions, Toomey told the crowd, “Have a nice day. Take care.”
The Civil Rights Act bans discrimination in public accommodations (including hotels, restaurants and theaters) on the basis of categories including race, religion and national origin -- but not on the basis of sexual orientation. Some municipalities have adopted local ordinances protecting LGBT customers; after such a law passed in Phoenix, the Arizona state Legislature stoked national controversy with a bill that would have effectively expanded the right to refuse someone service on the grounds that serving them would violate religious convictions. Following high-profile outcry, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed that bill.
Toomey, a first-term senator and former president of the pro-business Club for Growth, was one of 10 Senate Republicans who voted last year in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban discrimination against LGBT workers. (An amendment introduced by Toomey, which would have broadened the bill’s exemptions for religious employers, failed on a 43-53 vote.) Asked over email to elaborate on whether the senator believes a hotel or restaurant should be allowed to turn away customers because they're gay, a Toomey spokesperson responded only that the senator "has supported efforts to address discrimination based on sexual orientation," including ENDA and the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."