Brian cut his teeth as a senior law clerk at the Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., working as an attorney representing disabled clients who were denied benefits from insurance companies. He then worked as the staff counsel for Policy and Planning at the Philadelphia Bar Association. At both the EPA and the Bar Association, he gained in-depth knowledge that most legislators don’t get until well into their careers.
He took that experience and applied it when he served as president of the board of directors at Equality Pennsylvania, the only statewide LGBT civil-rights organization. There, he not only led a major restructuring of the organization, but he also helped to focus Equality PA’s efforts on passing municipal nondiscrimination ordinances across the commonwealth. Too many Pennsylvanians live in places where they are not protected from discrimination like we are here in Philadelphia. But because of Brian’s work helping chart Equality PA’s course, thousands of additional Pennsylvanians now have the rights that they deserve.
Brian doesn’t just stand up and fight for issues — he gets results. In Harrisburg, he can do this because he is willing to roll up his sleeves and work with his fellow legislators to build the coalitions it takes to create change, and not just alienate those who disagree with him. To pass good legislation or defeat bad legislation, you have to be able to persuade your fellow lawmakers that your ideas make sense. If you can’t even start that conversation because you’re isolated, then you’ve already lost the argument.
Brian is a progressive policy wonk at heart. He has a detailed plan for job creation that can be found at www.sims4pa.com/jobs/. While the legislature has done nothing effective to address the job crisis, Brian has some great ideas on how to increase green jobs and make a smart investment in the high-tech sector.
His experience working on regulation and enforcement at the EPA gives him great perspective on the environmental issues our state faces concerning natural gas and fracking. We don’t just need a leader who will vote the right way on the issues: We need someone who understands them, and can be a more effective leader because of in-depth experience, knowledge and understanding of the issues.
A staunch ally of public education, Brian is committed to helping improve the School District of Philadelphia by lobbying for increased funding and looking at reforms that have worked elsewhere. He’s a strong supporter of women’s rights, including choice, access to contraception and equal pay. And he will fight to restore the health insurance that Gov. Corbett and his administration have cut from families across the state.
Brian’s progressive bona fides and experience getting results make him the right candidate for this job. But I am most excited about what it will mean to have our first out legislator. I would not be surprised if Brian is the first openly LGBT person that some of our state representatives ever meet, let alone serve alongside of. And it’s much easier to deny equal rights to some imaginary person than it is to deny equal rights to someone you know personally. In fact, not a single state that has achieved marriage equality has done so without an openly LGBT member of their state legislature. This year we will have the opportunity to elect the first — and possibly up to six — openly LGBT people to Pennsylvania’s legislature. With the highest LGBT population in the state, the 182nd, which includes the Gayborhood, would be sending a strong message to the rest of the commonwealth that we fully expect a seat at the table. Because you know what they say: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
This is a historic election — so many of us have worked for so long to see the day when an out LGBT person would be elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. I can think of no one better to represent the district — to represent us — than Brian Sims.
Rick Naughton, J.D., is a longtime advocate for the LGBT community and is a member of the board of directors at Equality PA. He is a proud resident of the Gayborhood.