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Pennsylvania to get first openly gay lawmaker

By Jen Colletta
Philadelphia Gay News
Friday, April 27, 2012
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Pennsylvania elected its first openly gay state legislator this week.

Democrat Brian Sims won his bid to represent the 182nd District in the state House, defeating longtime incumbent Rep. Babette Josephs. Sims will not face a Republican challenger in the fall.

Brian Sims

As of press time Wednesday, Sims had 3,681 votes to Josephs’ 3,463 — a difference of 218 votes.

According to the City Commissioners office, there were two cartridges left to retrieve for the race on Wednesday, which City Commissioner Stephanie Singer said were unlikely to have any votes on them.

Sims, an attorney and the former president of Equality Pennsylvania, watched the election returns at Woody’s Tuesday night, where about 150 supporters turned out to cheer him on.

“I am extremely honored by this historic win,” Sims told PGN. “Our victory was made possible by the support and hard work of hundreds of individuals. With such a tight margin, every volunteer hour and ever dollar counted. Representative democracy is what makes this nation great, and not only am I humbled to become our first openly LGBT state legislator, but I am proud to have won this election with one of the strongest grassroots campaigns this city has ever seen.”

He continued, “From members across the spectrum of communities to allies, the old chant summarizes it best: This is what democracy looks like, this is what democracy feels like.”

Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of national LGBT political group Victory Fund, which endorsed Sims, said the win is one for all LGBTs in the state.

“LGBT Pennsylvanians will finally have a voice in their state legislature, and what a strong and unyielding voice it will be,” Wolfe said. “We are thrilled for Brian, who ran a remarkable campaign.”

Sims was also endorsed by PGN, Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club and Equality PA.

Prior to Tuesday, Pennsylvania was the second-largest state in the nation to never have elected an openly LGBT lawmaker at the state level.

“For far too long, I have had to embarrassingly explain to people in and outside of Pennsylvania that no openly gay elected officials are serving in Harrisburg,” said Ted Martin, Equality PA executive director. “And this is when places that I like to call liberal bastions — Utah, Mississippi, Georgia and Arizona — all have openly gay elected officials, but Pennsylvania, where the Declaration of Independence was written, did not. So this finally, finally, finally changes it. Brian’s victory is certainly a tribute to him and all the hard work he and his staff put into the campaign, but this is really also a victory for all of LGBT Pennsylvania.”

In his victory speech at Woody’s, Sims thanked family and friends, campaign staff and volunteers and asked all in the room to give Josephs a round of applause.

Josephs, a longtime LGBT ally, was first elected in 1985.

Other out candidates were not as successful as Sims.

Openly bisexual candidate Fatimah Lorén Muhammad, who sought to challenge incumbent Rep. James Roebuck for the 188th District seat, lost her race, capturing 44 percent of the vote.

Out candidate Roy Christ finished second among three other Democrats in his race to fill the vacant 103rd District seat.

LGBT ally former Congressman Patrick Murphy, who spearheaded the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” was also unsuccessful in the Democratic Attorney General race: He received 47.2 percent of the votes compared to opponent Kathleen Kane’s 52.8 percent.

Three out Democratic candidates throughout the state ran unopposed — Chris Dietz (104th Dist.), Kelly McEntee (105th Dist.) and Jeff Dahlander (111th Dist.) — and all will face incumbent Republicans in the fall.

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