First openly gay member of PA General Assembly shares story

Sasha Weilbaker, Staff Writer

Brian Sims, the first openly gay member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, was brought to campus Sept. 15 by the Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and the College Democrats.

Sims, a Democrat, was first elected to the assembly in November 2012 and represents a part of Philadelphia County. His focuses are on equality for the LGBTQ community, women’s rights, safety in Philadelphia, affordable health care, and the expansion of public education. He is a Bloomsburg University graduate, where he was captain of the football team, and later attended Michigan State University College of Law.

Sims said that he knew he wanted to be a women’s rights lawyer since he was young. He is the son of two former lieutenant colonels who met in Vietnam. He said that living in a household where both of his parents had a relatively equal partnership helped to influence his outlook on women’s rights.

Sims encouraged the students in the audience to participate in government, and affirmed that he “believes that good public policy is about empathy.” Sims said it has been statistically proven that social minorities pay more attention to the needs of their constituents because they have empathy for others that have grown up facing societal oppression. However, the Pennsylvania government is currently made up of only 18.2 percent women and an even smaller percentage of African Americans. Sims remarked that these low percentages of representation in government are preventing progress, and that the “value of diversity is much more than just the optics.”

In regards to Pennsylvania’s government, he believes that a more equal representation would be incredibly valuable because the state is behind in civil rights legislation. However, he believes that progress is closer than ever because of the college-educated youth between the ages of 18 and 30. This demographic continues to politically influence older generations to vote more progressively and fight for equality. Sims remarked that “this is the first time a younger generation has influenced an older one” in terms of voting.

Sims also has high hopes for the future of Pennsylvania’s state government because of the generation of children growing up with a general openness towards sexual orientation. He said that these children will be future LGBTQ allies. Sims commented that “allies are the most powerful people in the LGBT conversation” because people opposed to changing their opinions are more likely to listen to an ally than a member of the LGBTQ community.

In addition to talking about his role as a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Sims shared his story of coming out to the Bloomsburg University football team in 2000, after leading them to a NCAA Division II victory. He is currently the only former NCAA football captain to have ever come out.


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