Election 2024

LGBTQ leaders snub Lt. Gov. candidate Brian Sims & endorse his straight opponent instead

Out Pennsylvania state legislator Brian Sims speaks on the House floor
Out Pennsylvania state legislator Brian Sims speaks on the House floor Photo: Screenshot

Updated: The Sims campaign has alleged that at least three of the seven LGBTQ leaders who “endorsed” his opponent were tricked into attending the event under false pretenses.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims (D) made history as the first out gay member of the Pennsylvania legislature. Now, he is running for Lt. Governor, and if elected, Sims would break yet another barrier as the state’s first out leader elected statewide.

But recently, a group of Pennsylvania LGBTQ leaders turned their back on Sims and endorsed one of his straight opponents, state Rep. Austin Davis (D), who would make history of his own as the state’s first Black lieutenant governor.

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The LGBTQ leaders announced their endorsement of Davis during a March 3 press conference, during which they lauded Davis’s support of LGBTQ rights.

Those who spoke at the press conference included Maria Sanelli, founder of the Schuylkill County Stonewall Democrats; Rue Landau, former executive director of the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission; and Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News.

The leaders reportedly did not acknowledge why Sims wasn’t their top choice.

Sims is well known for his outspokenness and passion. In 2018, for example, he posted a photo of himself flipping off Mike Pence during a visit to Philadelphia by the former Vice President. And last year, Republicans cut off his mic during a debate about reproductive rights, during which he pointed out that the Republican caucus is “100% white.”

Before being silenced, Sims vehemently criticized the Republican-dominated legislature for a “grossly, predictably misogynistic agenda” and said it “has done more to remove mask mandates, strip executive emergency powers and overturn free and fair elections than we have to make strategic investments in Pennsylvania’s women, children, and families.”

Of course, none of that explains why the LGBTQ leaders did not endorse him.

“The LGBTQ community is not a monolith,” said Elliot Imse, a spokesperson for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Sims. “We have varied priorities, interests and political beliefs, so it is unsurprising a handful of LGBTQ community leaders would support other candidates.”

“Yet the majority of LGBTQ voters and community leaders are excited to elect Brian Sims as the next Lieutenant Governor of the Keystone State, and his fundraising numbers are all the evidence you need,” Imse continued. “Pennsylvanians’ enthusiasm behind Brian’s historic candidacy is resounding.”

In June, Sims told LGBTQ Nation that he is running for higher office because Pennsylvania is in dire need of more progressive leadership, something he has unwaveringly worked to provide in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.

“What I’ve learned is the Lieutenant Governor position is one of the areas where Pennsylvanians are still able to elect a progressive Democrat in a state that oftentimes forces us to choose more moderate or more centrist Democrats,” he said.

“It’s disappointing that Pennsylvania lacks so much progressive legislation and also a real opportunity for me,” he continued. “I have spent my ten years leading the charge on women’s rights, reproductive rights, racial and ethnic justice, certainly LGBTQ civil rights, issues of the environment, and even immigration.”

Currently co-chair of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus, Sims also said he is proud of the coalition-building he has done around LGBTQ rights.

In response to losing the LGBTQ leaders’ endorsements, a statement from Sims did not acknowledge the snub directly but rather focused on his commitment to LGBTQ rights.

“Fighting for LGBTQ+ equality has been the work of my life. You don’t have to look further than the legislation I’ve introduced and sponsored over the last decade or my career prior to office to see that.”

“Our community – like many other communities – is tired of being approached by allies for our votes only around election time when it’s most convenient. We’re more than a set of photo opportunities and press conferences, and we deserve representation that will actually fight for our causes. We need elected officials who’ve stood with the community before the campaign season, and will still be here after election day. That’s why I’m running for Lieutenant Governor.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated.

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