As F. Scott Fitzgerald thought about it There are no second acts in American life, Rep. Brian Sims wasn’t born yet.
As one of the first gay members of the state legislature, Democrat Sims represented Philadelphia’s 182nd District from 2012-2022. During the last election cycle, he ran an unsuccessful primary campaign for lieutenant governor, finishing second in the contest.
Sims announced last week that he will take over the newly created position of mSenior Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs at Out Leadership, a 98-person business and non-profit organization promoting state-level conversations on LGBTQ+ issues and public policy.
Out Leadership publishes an annual LGBTQ+ business climate index that ranked Pennsylvania 23rd out of the 50 states in its most recent round of civil rights protection rankings.
Sims’ priority is to “meet with our organization members over the next few months,” and says he has “lots of ideas about what governmental affairs and public policy can do for all of them at the local, state, and national levels.”
Its goal is to bridge the dots of lobbying and politics in a way that prepares members for discussions about queer civil rights in an increasingly hostile and violent atmosphere.
“Discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people is increasing, fueled in part by legislative attacks in local, state and national governments,” Sims said Capital Star. In the past 18 months, an estimated 162 anti-LGBTQ laws have been introduced in 35 state legislatures in the US alone. It is still illegal to be gay in 68 countries around the world.
Pennsylvania reflects the trend towards stigmatizing queer sexuality.
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Last June, the Pennsylvania State Senate passed three anti-LGBTQ measures on the same day. One such measure, House Bill 972, was known as the Anti-Trans Youth Sports Act. Governor Tom Wolf vetoed the measure as it reached his desk.
Two other anti-gay bills orchestrated by the state’s Senate chamber are expected to be reintroduced in the next two-year term.
The legislation, sponsored by state Senator Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, is a book and education ban on sex-related materials.
The legislation, sponsored by state Senator Scott Martin, also a Lancaster County Republican, is “broad gags on school staff on LGBTQ issues, enforces the coming out of vulnerable students to parents or guardians, and establishes a private right of action if these conditions are met, among other things.” violating other cruel regulations,” Preston Heldibridle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, told Capital-Star. It is analogous to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Referring to last weekend’s Club Q mass shooting, Sims said, “This horrific attack in Colorado is emblematic of why changes are needed in the American legislative process.”
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Sim’s solution is “full federal civil rights protections for LGBTQ citizens, but they must also exist from state to state, including Pennsylvania.” He insists the gay community “will continue to see ingrained discrimination” because haters and discriminators “will find out where the cracks are and will take advantage of them.”
Does the consideration of anti-gay legislation by Pennsylvania or any state legislature create an atmosphere where violence is normalized?
“It’s amazing how the introduction of anti-gay laws by any state legislature creates an atmosphere where violence is normalized,” Sims said. He worries about the impact on young LGBTQ people “who now hear divisive rhetoric, they know they are being attacked by adult, elected officials who should be looking out for their interests”.
For a decade, Sims had to collect votes because of his political positions while hoping for dialogue with his elected peers. Has his personal experience as gay helped him explain to colleagues that demonizing gay people puts them at risk?
“One frustrating thing I’ve learned about the majority of my peers in the Republican House is that, I believe, they are do believe in equality. It’s not easy for me to say, Sims admitted, “after spending a decade begging and pleading, sometimes yelling and yelling, trying to make connections that would create more understanding, a little bit of empathy.” for LGBTQ people, hoping my peers would vote in a way that respects us. And yet it still hasn’t happened.”
Sims is hopeful but clear about how he sees elected officials failing to respond to their constituents’ civil rights needs.
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“I never believed that 100% of my fellow Republicans were anti-LGBTQ, even when they voted so. Their endgame of never voting for gay civil rights means that “they only face their own political reality.” However, Sims explains that he does not “benefit them when in doubt”. He believes their anti-gay votes represent “sheer cowardice, sheer political calculation” which has to do with the composition of our legislature and its constituents in the home counties.
“My colleagues feel as encouraged as ever to vote in such a vile manner, even if they don’t think so themselves,” he added.
He mused that the GOP’s staunchly anti-gay base, which appealed to itself as queer issues invigorated the last election cycle, may be less relevant. “As the Trump era comes to its legal end and elected officials have less of a need to sit down, lawmakers could soften their positions here in Pennsylvania and in state houses across the country.