Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims gave a heartfelt and rousing speech in favor of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, H.B. 1510, which he is co-sponsoring. The act would update the state’s nondiscrimination law to explicitly ensure equal rights for all residents in employment, housing, and more, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression.
“I stand before you as a very out, very proud gay man, who can be fired in my own state when I fall in love,” Sims said. He urged his fellow lawmakers, with his supporters standing by his side, to understand the discrimination he faces in his own state:
“In Pennsylvania, you beat us in the streets when we hold hands. In Orlando, you kill us when we gather together. There’s no question about it—this state has spent far too long putting a bullseye on my back and the backs of the people standing with me.”
The legislation advanced in the Senate 7-4 yesterday with support from the business community and liberal lawmakers.
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Sims, Pennsylvania’s first openly gay elected state legislator, opened his speech by asserting the critical importance of his bill.
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender—it doesn’t get said enough in these halls and as a result, we’re here today fighting for our basic rights and I want to make sure that every time I have the opportunity, that I say lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender in this building—because it is so critically important.”
Sims implored his fellow legislators to “focus on the people standing with me today” and to “talk to them, please.” Among them were representatives Dan Frankel, Ed Gainey, Mike Schlossberg, Tina Davis, Joanna McClinton, Leanne Krueger-Brankey, Kevin Schreiber, and Steve McCarter.
Sims emphasized the urgency of the act, especially after the tragedy in Orlando. While the current law already protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, disability, the lawmaker points out this would be the first state-wide LGBT civil rights legislation in the state of Pennsylvania:
“There is not a single state-wide LGBT civil right in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and we know that is wrong. And we know the implications: we know what happens to people like me, like people like us every single day we don’t pass these protections. So now is the time.
“I’ve wondered: what would I say when I address a crowd like this? I would say I’m sick of waiting—but we haven’t waited. We’ve demanded this change for years and years and years and yet it has still not happened, but we are here today because there is a critical mass of support. We’re joined by the governor, we’re joined by members of the Senate, we are joined by a majority of the population of the commonwealth in demanding full equality now, and nothing less. Thank you all very much.
You can watch the full speech below.