It’s Time to Vote for Brian Sims

As The Advocate profiles the out lawyer in its "40 Under 40," he gets our endorsement

Brian Sims has been making quite a few headlines lately as he runs for state house in the 182nd district in Philly. On this election day, he goes up against longtime incumbent Babette Josephs in a campaign that has inspired much conversation – and controversy – in recent weeks, with both candidates attacking each other with sometimes curious campaign ads, mailers and debate.

Photo by Chris Crisman (courtesy of The Advocate)

Yes, Sims worked with Josephs as treasurer of her campaign a few years ago. Yes, Josephs has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights during her tenure. And yes, both candidates have much good work to do – though Josephs has been poised to do that work for years now and we can’t help but get the impression that she’s cramming for her finals. But as an openly gay man himself, Sims could make history if he’s elected – becoming the first out representative in Pennsylvania.

Being openly gay doesn’t guarantee anyone’s vote in the LGBT community – let alone the general population. A candidate has to earn it. But we’ve had our eye on Sims ever since he helped transform Equality Pennsylvania – a group that has become a major advocacy watch dog for LGBT issues throughout the commonwealth. He’s also worked extensively with the Philadelphia Bar Association and GALLOP. And as a one-time member of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, he’s spoken about the policy and legal challenges facing the LGBT community.

Sims is smart, motivated and he lives what he talks about. That recipe isn’t always easy to find in most public figures – let alone a politician.

That’s why we included him in our “New Who’s Who” last year. And we suspect that why The Advocate took a page from our playbook and honored him in their “Forty Under Forty” this month, praising Sims for providing a liberal benchmark in a state that many have associated, unfortunately, for being Santorum Country.

As Sims seeks to unseat Josephs in today’s primary, we can’t help but imagine what a victory for Sims could mean for LGBT rights in a state that scarcely offers protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a state that is shadowed by an amendment that could ban marriage equality entirely if it ever passes. The conservative leadership in Pennsylvania is a strong one, with Gov. Tom Corbett at the helm of a ship intent to sink any hope of LGBT rights progress (he even wants to make voter IDs mandatory, as many will see today as they head to the polls and are asked for a photo ID “voluntarily”).

But we like to think that a candidate as bold and motivated as Sims – the son of two Army Lt. Colonels who helped win a Division II Championship in college as one of the only openly gay football captains in the nation – a guy who believes in what he says and does something about it, could be what Pennsylvania needs right now.

We applaud Josephs for her advocacy and the attention she’s paid to the LGBT community over the years. It’s always seemed genuine. Josephs is, quite frankly, a solid Democrat in a liberal city and we’ve been fortunate to have her on our side. But there have been some bumps in the road. We wouldn’t simply abandon the good she’s done in favor of a new kid on the block (who happens to be gay) if not for the bumps – and the major prospects we see in Sims. Whether today is a win or a loss for him, Sims has a future in politics.

The irony here is that if Sims was running for any other seat other than Josephs, we suspect he would have her endorsement. And because we think it’s time for Pennsylvania to have its first openly gay legislator as the lives of real people are at stake, when same-sex couples are poised to tie the knot, when hardworking Pennsylvanians are treated differently simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and when the community may feel that its voice is not always being heard loud and clear in Harrisburg, we believe that person should be Brian Sims.